July 19, 2006 12:40 PM PDT

Microsoft vows to play fair

WASHINGTON--Microsoft pledged on Wednesday that all of its future operating systems, including Windows Vista, will abide by self-imposed rules aimed at bolstering choice and competition.

The voluntary principles will come into play after major parts of a U.S. government decree related to the landmark U.S. antitrust case against the software maker expire next year, said Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft. They focus on the freedoms that users, manufacturers and developers can expect in Windows Vista and its successors.

"In the broadest sense, I am here to pledge Microsoft's continued commitment to vigorous competition and vital innovation in the software marketplace--and to explain how this commitment is guiding our development of the next-generation Windows operating system, Windows Vista," Smith said in a speech at a luncheon here hosted by the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank that counts Google CEO Eric Schmidt as a board member.

Under the principles, users and manufacturers will be free to change any default settings, to install any software and to remove key Windows features as they please, Smith said. Developers will enjoy access to a broader range of application programming interfaces, or APIs, and anyone will be able to license Microsoft's communications protocol or patents, within certain parameters.

The announcement comes just a week after the European regulators slapped the company with a $357.3 million fine for noncompliance with a 2004 antitrust ruling. In addition, several U.S. antitrust-related provisions imposed on Microsoft by a federal court run out in November 2007. The company agreed with federal and state prosecutors in May to extend certain parts of the judgment related to licensing of its communications protocols until 2009.

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Microsoft has vowed to build Vista and future Windows to allow "vigorous" competition. What effect will that have?

None. It's just throwing a bone to antitrust regulators.
A little. But they don't go far enough to let other software makers really get a foothold.
A lot. It could signal a new attitude at Microsoft.



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The principles unveiled on Wednesday aren't meant to substitute for antitrust law, nor are they as comprehensive as some might like, Smith acknowledged. "We do not pretend these principles answer all questions for all time or even for now," he said.

But they reflect the fact that Microsoft has learned a lot in the nine years since the U.S. government launched its antitrust probe in earnest, Smith said. Chief among those lessons, he said, is the recognition that Microsoft has "a special responsibility both to advance innovation and to help preserve competition in the information technology ecosystem."

That means, for instance, that if a PC manufacturer wants to ship machines with a competing search engine enabled, that's just fine with Microsoft, Smith said. That statement appeared to be an almost direct rebuttal to concerns raised by Google earlier this year about a search box planned for Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista.

"Users can reset settings and choose whatever they want as things go forward," Smith added.

Windows principles

Microsoft has written itself 12 tenets to promote competition associated with its operating system. Here are the main areas:

Choice for computer manufacturers and customers
1. Installation of any software
2. Easy access for software makers
3. Defaults for non-Microsoft programs
4. Exclusive promotion of non-Microsoft programs
5. Business terms (no retaliation against PC makers that support non-Microsoft software)

Opportunities for developers
6. Disclosure of APIs
7. Freedom of choice in Internet services
8. Open Internet access in Windows
9. No exclusivity in middleware contracts

Interoperability for users
10. Availability of communications protocols
11. Availability of Microsoft patents
12. Support for industry standards

Source: Microsoft

Such flexibility should also allow the "phenomenal success" of others, such as Apple Computer's iTunes software on the Windows platform, to continue, he said.

The principles also include a nod to the hot-button issue of Net neutrality, or the idea that network operators must not be permitted to make deals offering higher priority to Web content and service providers that pay for the privilege.

On Net neutrality, Smith promised that Microsoft would "design and license Windows so that it does not block access to any lawful Web site or impose any fee for reaching any non-Microsoft Web site or using and non-Microsoft Web service."

He did not, however, claim that the principles are entirely comprehensive. No mention was made, for instance, of privacy and security because "we didn't think those issues belonged as part of competition issues," Smith said. He added that Microsoft devotes the largest chunk of its research and development spending to security.

The principles drew applause on Wednesday from two Democrats in Congress. Rep. Ed Towns of New York said the document gave him confidence that America's software industry will continue to see a resurgence in activity. Rep. Jay Inslee, who represents a district in Microsoft's home state of Washington, said the principles "reaffirm Microsoft's commitment not only to compliance with government regulations, but also to technological innovation and consumer choice."

Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff said he suspected that the timing of the announcement was tied at least in part to the European Commission's action against Microsoft.

"More generally, Microsoft wants to avoid any more expenses related to lawsuits--these fines and settlements have cut more than $6 billion from the company's bottom line in the last few years," he said in an e-mail interview. "And I think with organic growth slowing in some of its businesses, Microsoft is more acutely aware of these expenses than ever before."

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62 comments

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"Under the principles,....
... users and manufacturers will be free to change any default settings, to install any software, and to remove key Windows features as they please, Smith said. Developers will enjoy access to a broader range of application programming interfaces, or APIs, and anyone will be able to license Microsoft's communications protocol or patents, within certain parameters."; so, of what interest are these if an "OS/2 World" is all that matters! Also, how about Microsoft freeing up those OS/2 Source-Codes it most probably have in its possession. DUH!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM
has the latest source code, not M$. Better hurry, support dies 12/31/06
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
Gee, thanks
Wow. Micro$loth now acknowledges my rights to my own
computer, my right to set it up as I see fit. How nice of them.

I assume that's as long as I allow WGD (Winblows Genuine
Disadvantage) to report my computer's setup and software back
to Redmond. Twice a month, in case my legal version suddenly
becomes illegal. Or in case M$ wants to deny me access to my
own machine.

You know, with Linux on my home machine these "rights" to set
up my own computer are never in question.
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft vows to play fair
"Microsoft vows to play fair"

Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Heh heh heh. Ahhhhh.

Now you tell one.
Posted by 60AmpRelay (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't know
As I sit here using FireFox to surf the web, Picasa2 to organize my pictures, Copernic to index my files (Paint.Net for advanced editing), audacity to work with sound or music, PDFCreator, TMPGEnc, FontFrenzy, AVG, a dozen utilities from SysInternals, (you get the idea)
I wonder, how much more open the Windows platform can become?
Posted by catch23 (436 comments )
Link Flag
Anyone actually believe this?
MS has proven they don't want to obey antitrust laws, they don't want to comply nicely with imposed penalties required by the US judgement, and they want to find some alternative to paying EU's fines.

Sorry, but after MS has showed for so long how they intend to act, I don'e believe a word of this. I don't believe they are willing or even capable of self-regulating. They say they are willing to license protocols and patents "within certain parameters", which are surely intended to make it akward, difficult, or impossible to include in alternative platforms.

Sorry, Brad, but I don't trust you.
Posted by amigabill (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well...better believe
Well they might have realized that it is cheaper to play along than costly litigations!!!

So far they have made more than $5 payments. If they had used the money they could have made better products!!
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
The lie is in the words of MS
"n the broadest sense, I am here to pledge Microsoft's continued commitment to vigorous competition and vital innovation in the software marketplace"

MS has had no commitment, thus contiuning nothing is meaningless.

They have yet to developed anything resembling innovation, much 'vital innovation'.

What a joke.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft has changed for the better
On one level this is earth shattering news given the Microsoft of the 80's and 90's. On another, it is just business as usual for the Microsoft of the new millennium. Microsoft has really changed in many ways. It is a better company today in every way.

Pundits will argue that Microsoft could have saved itself decades of lawsuits, antitrust actions, and billions of dollars in settlements if these principles were adopted 20 years ago. They may be right about that, but put in the same position they probably would have made the same decisons that Microsoft execs did years ago. Others will sneer that this is just a PR move and there is no real substance here. I disagree. Microsoft has changed dramatically. Microsoft is already living these principles today, and has committed to honoring them in the future.

I wrote a blog about this today <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2006/07/microsofts_12_p.html" target="_newWindow">http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2006/07/microsofts_12_p.html</a>
Posted by Don_Dodge (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft has not changed...
Don, wake up. Microsoft has not changed, except for getting
slower and slower in releasing their third rate copycat operating
systems. You remind me of someone whose wife has been
caught cheating numerous times, who forgives the past and
then swears to everyone she has changed for the better.

If Microsoft had adhered to these new principles of theirs 20
years ago, they would not have become the near-monopoly they
still are. They might not even be in business any more.

Have a nice day!
Posted by lesfilip (496 comments )
Link Flag
Shuuuuure they'll play fair...
Oh... Pretty Pretty please buy our new OS... We PROMISE to be good this time... REALLY!!! We (snicker) promise! (snicker)
Posted by McShaken (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Right, and Charles Manson Promises to be Nice, too!
Historicaly speaking, this commitment is a joke, like making Charles Manson promise to abide by all the Emily Post verities. Functionally speaking, it's all beside the point. The real power of the MS monopoly is in its contracts with the PC manufacturers giving them boot loader priority. Smith knows this. The Mansons know this. Everyone knows this. MS could give massages and Windows source code to everyone at all of its competitors and with the boot loader locked up, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Justice knows this - but no one there has the gonads to go after MS to win. They chose a case form that would end in a stupid and worthless draw because they didn't have the guts to stick the blade where they could draw blood.
Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Playing fair by Microsofts rules..
Suuuuurrrrrre Microsoft will play fair..
but only by THEIR rules..!!
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Changed for the better..?!?!
My God, has Microsoft got it's propaganda sack pulled tightly over
your head..!!
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right, and Charles Manson Promises to be Nice, too!
Historicaly speaking, this commitment is a joke, like making Charles Manson promise to abide by all the Emily Post verities. Functionally speaking, it's all beside the point. The real power of the MS monopoly is in its contracts with the PC manufacturers giving them boot loader priority. Smith knows this. The Mansons know this. Everyone knows this. MS could give massages and Windows source code to everyone at all of its competitors and with the boot loader locked up, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Justice knows this - but no one there has the gonads to go after MS to win. They chose a case form that would end in a stupid and worthless draw because they didn't have the guts to stick the blade where they could draw blood.
Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
make me happy, I dare you
OK, I would be a MUCH happier Windows user if I could easily remove some of the useless (to me) software that gets installed with the OS. I'd like to be rid of:

- Media Player
- Internet Explorer
- Instant Messenger
- .NET
- Movie Maker

...and a variety of other items that I consider a waste of my hard drive space without some obfuscated process. If I could install Windows like I can install GNU/Linux I would actually consider using it more. I want the ability to pick and choose everything that is installed on my system.

For the record I have 4 GNU/Linux machines, 2 Macs, and 1 Windows machine.
Posted by herkamur (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They're not doing it now. This is absurd.
I've got a bridge in Brooklyn.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
lol, money isn't the problem
If what I read quoted from Gates is true that they spent 8-9 billion
developing Vista, then I don't thing you will be getting your
money's worth
Posted by curtegg (38 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is it April?
Or is this just indicitive of Microsofts' timing? ... eom
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't see what the problem is....
I have all major media players; a selection of search engines; and a bunch of competing software products on my machine and they all work just fine.

Maybe the Euro-nutbaskets and the Feds are working from the unfortunate truism that "No one ever lost money underestimating the general public" (E.L. Menken, American).

The charge seems to be lead by the fanatic fringe of Linux Desktop geeks. Yes, Linux is a good server product but its' desktop products - and I have tried ALL of them - suck when compared to MS Office. Their saving grace, of course, is that they are for free.

Another example of you get what you pay for.

Bottom line, the Euro-trash decision was bought and paid for by a consortium of OSS money making companies, IBM, Real Software (now a global double-dipper), and other companies who sensed that they could stab at Microsofts bottom line by pocketing a few bureaucrats - and they succeeded.

Take their argument to it's logical conclusion and MS opens their OS to every company who claims to have a compatible product. Bye bye OS security. Just like FireFox and their endless list of extensions, some of which are known and notorious spyware generators.

Mozilla's response to inclusion of these spyware companies in their list of software suppliers said, "We are aware of this problem.", thanks and goodbye.

Goodbye is right. FireFox in all its' versions, is now gonzo from my system. It was hard enough to get their extension junk off my system without risking yet more by trying any others.

As an informed user, I have also tried most competing OS's while they were still alive. I have avoided Linux because I see no benefit to me in it - a steep learning curve and the lackadaisical attitude towards security of the entire Linux group of products.

It takes an entirely 'new' version of FireFox to alleviate a few security problems? And new versions take MONTHS to appear? Thanks but no thanks.
Posted by revstar (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How much...
...did M$ pay you for the swill you just spilled?

1. M$ Office is NOT the desktop, it is an application.

2. Windows, Gnome, KDE - These are desktops. That many mistakenly think "windows" is an OS is due to your type of thinking born out of inept cluelesness and lack of understanding.

3. The eu is driven by its own need for money, thats why the large fine. Open Source had nothing to do with it.

4. As to the FF extensions, just who installed them on you system?

5. Be more careful next time you go porn happy and warez hunting and you wont get loaded up with malware.

6. How long between updates? Look at the gaps in IE updates. How long does it take M$ to come out with a new browser. Heck, my three year old kid hit puberty while I waited.

7. Please continue to stay away from Linux as it obvious to me it is way over your intelligence threshold.

8. If Linux's learning curve is over your head no wonder any OS you try is beyond you ability to fathom.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
MS should be applauded for a step in right direction.
They should be encouraged, rather than criticized.
Posted by mooneyna (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Big Step
Agreed. 95% of ordinary users have little problem with Microsoft's business/competition strategy in the past. Yes they are a big company, yes they promote themselves via their own software, but most consumers don't have complaints. I also feel their E-Magna Carta is the sign of a better company with a better future. Forgive me for being practical.
Posted by tjlaw08 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Macs should follow MS's lead
I think it's great that MS has developed a system so that all programs will conform. It seems these days both the company and its owner (Gates and his fundraising) are setting an example for us all. If only Macs would conform as well. Macs are becoming more and more popular every day because of the security they offer. But when it comes to programs conforming, Macs seem to be impossible to use. Congrats to MS for leading the way into the future!
Posted by ekstromv (1 comment )
Link Flag
Great News for Consumers
This is great news from Microsoft for consumers. This will mean more competition and that will give techies like me more choices and better products. I say keep up the good work Microsoft!
Posted by TechApprentice (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
This is a big deal
Users and manufacturers will have more freedom in dealing with Windows, and that's never a bad thing. Bravo to Microsoft for the shift.
Posted by rozencrantz (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who thought Microsoft Could Get Even Better
Kudos to Microsoft! Not only do they continue to improve their products for consumers - but they are doing it in a way that encourages competition.
Posted by LydDowg (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
re
When you are at the bottom of the quality pile, there is nowhere to go but up.

They are still decades behind though.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Take an aspirin
I think some of the posters here have enough cynicism to last three lifetimes. Remember, these are voluntary moves, despite your feelings about the antitrust cases and the EU suit. You will never find another big-business corporation participate in as many negotiations or provide as many concessions to competitors as Microsoft has.
Posted by nicholsdata (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re
You will likely never find another corporation that has willfully broken so many laws in so many people, and ruthlessly step on so many people with better products.

The negotiate because their unethical business practices force them to.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
A step in the right direction
I agree with "Take an aspirin" - there are some people out there who are going to criticize Microsoft no matter what they do. The company has made great strides at transparency with Vista and should be commended and not criticized for those efforts.
Posted by ComputersAreAFad (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Give em a chance
Why not give them the benefit of the doubt. There have been a lot changes in the last few years this could be a harbinger of things to come. After all the Gates Foundation is doing what many governments are failing to do in poor countries.
Posted by Cheeky123 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I'll buy it
With IE7, you can set your default search engine with the in-browser search to just about any engine under the sun. It let me switch to Google with no questions asked. That's mighty decent in my book.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wait and see
Vowing to do something and actually doing something are two different things. Let's wait and see and if they actually go through with it, then maybe Microsoft can change its ways. I doubt it, but here's to hoping!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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