Microsoft today lifted the lid on 14,000 pages of sketchy versions of tech documentation for core software code. On show for the first time in public are underlying protocols for Office 2007, Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.
This is Microsoft's latest effort to satisfy anti-trust concerns of the European Union, which is possibly a tougher adversary for the company than Google.
In February, the firm made a surprise announcement in which it agreed to publish and provide free access to application programming interfaces (APIs) for its major software products.
At the time Microsoft said it also planned to free up protocols around its client and server software.
Now it has unleashed preliminary tech docs that reveal some of the inner-workings of its code via its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) website. This is the first stage of the process.
Microsoft is to release details in three phases.
Between now and June it will garner feedback from the developer community. Then, at the end of June, Microsoft will publish the final versions of technical documentation – along with definitive patent licensing terms.
The definitions will be crucial to third parties who want to play with Microsoft code. We shall find out soon enough if Redmond will let them play ball.
Tom Robertson, Microsoft’s interoperability and standards general manager, says today's moves are "another step toward putting our interoperability principles into action with the public availability of these protocol specifications".
It may also help the company head off some anti-trust concerns.
In January European regulators began two formal investigations against Microsoft for alleged market abuse.
One is a response to the complaint filed by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems alleging Redmond had refused to disclose interoperability information on a range of Microsoft products.
The EC is scrutinising several server products and Office Open XML (OOXML) on the grounds that the specification doesn't work with those of competitors. Just last week OOXML bagged enough votes to be passed as an international standard, much to the chagrin of open source fanciers around the globe.
The second investigation was sparked by a complaint from the Norwegian web browser company Opera, which alleged that the tying of Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system was anti-competitive.®