The Microsoft Pledge of Compliance?

WASHINGTON — Microsoft pledged Wednesday to continue to comply with the
court-ordered provisions of its historic antitrust settlement after parts of
the deal begin expiring next year.

As part of its post-antitrust settlement pledge, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s
general counsel, outlined 12 principles that would guide Redmond in the
future development of its Windows operating system, beginning with the
release of Vista, currently scheduled for early next year.

Smith told the luncheon crowd at the National Press Club that Microsoft is committed to designing and licensing its operating
systems to make it easy to install non-Microsoft programs and to configure
Windows-based PCs to use non-Microsoft programs.

Under Microsoft’s new principles, computer manufacturers and consumers will
be free to install and promote any operating system, any application and any
Web service on PCs that run Windows.

Smith added that Microsoft will design Windows to allow both manufacturers
and consumers to set non-Microsoft programs to operate by default in key
categories, particularly in the use of browsers and media players.

The U.S. antitrust agreement requires Microsoft to disclose all of the
interfaces internal to Windows. Known as middleware, the disclosures allow
the independent development of application programming interfaces (APIs)
that operate the same way as built-in Windows features.

“It’s important to be open and constructive as a matter of process in the
design and release of future products before products are released, not
after,” Smith said.

While Smith’s remarks were directed to an American audience, he no doubt
also had the European Commission (EC) in mind when he noted, “This is the
responsible thing to do.”

Last week, the EC fined
Microsoft $375 million for not complying with the EC’s order to unbundle its
media player from Windows and to disclose information that would allow
rivals to interoperate with Windows.

Smith called the EC’s fine “unfortunate,” but stressed, “it is not possible
in any one single document to disclose everything.”

Smith said that Redmond
will endeavor to build into Windows choice for computer manufacturers and
consumers, opportunities for developers and interoperability across diverse

“These principles are 12 tenets to govern and guide the development of
Microsoft Windows,” Smith told the New America Foundation. “We want to put
users in charge of their own machines.”

Going forward, Smith said, Microsoft would make available to developers all
interfaces within Windows, such as Microsoft Office, so that anything
Microsoft products can do, competing products will be able to do, as well.

Smith added that the new principles were based on the
lessons learned through Microsoft’s bruising antitrust battles.

“We’ve learned the importance of humility,” he said. “We do not pretend
these principles answer all the questions, but we need to move forward where
there is clarity and consensus.”

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