Microsoft today announced 12 principles to promote competition. C/Net says "Microsoft Vows to Play Fair". On one level this is earth shattering news given the Microsoft of the 80's and early 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. I am proud to say I work for Microsoft. Here are the 12 principles.
Microsoft's 12 principles to promote competition
- Installation of any software - Computer manufacturers and customers are free to install and promote any operating system, any application, and any Web service on PCs that run Windows. Ultimately, end users are free to choose which software they prefer to use.
- Easy Access - Computer manufacturers are free to add icons, shortcuts and the like to the Windows Start menu and other places used to access software programs so that customers can easily find them.
- Defaults. Microsoft will design Windows so as to enable computer manufacturers and users to set non-Microsoft programs to operate by default in key categories, such as Web browsing and media playback, in lieu of corresponding end-user functionality in Windows. Computer manufacturers are free to set these defaults as they please when building new PCs.
- Exclusive promotion of non-Microsoft programs. In order to provide competitors with the opportunity to attain essentially exclusive end-user promotion on new PCs, computer manufacturers will have the right to remove the means by which end users access key Windows features, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media® Player.
- Business terms. Microsoft will not retaliate against any computer manufacturer that supports non-Microsoft software. To provide transparency on this point, Microsoft will post a standard volume-based price list to a Web site that is accessible to computer manufacturers, as it has under the U.S. antitrust ruling. Windows royalties will be determined based on that price list, without regard to any decisions the computer manufacturer makes concerning the promotion of non-Microsoft software.
- APIs - Microsoft will ensure that all the interfaces within Windows called by any other Microsoft product, such as the Microsoft Office system or Windows Live™, will be disclosed for use by the developer community generally. That means that anything that Microsoft’s products can do in terms of how they plug into Windows, competing products will be able to do as well.
- Internet services. Microsoft is contributing to innovation in the area of Internet services with services that we call Windows Live. Microsoft will design Windows Live as a product that is separate from Windows. Customers will be free to choose Windows with or without Windows Live.
- Open Internet access. Microsoft will 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 any non-Microsoft Web service.
- No exclusivity. The U.S. antitrust ruling generally provides that Microsoft may not enter into contracts that require any third party to promote Windows or any “middleware” in Windows on an exclusive basis. We will maintain this practice going forward, and in fact broaden it to apply to Windows or any part of Windows, whether or not it would qualify as “middleware” under the U.S. antitrust ruling.
- Communications protocols. Microsoft will make available, on commercially reasonable terms, all of the communications protocols that it has built into Windows and that are used to facilitate communication with server versions of Windows.
- Availability of Microsoft patents. Microsoft will generally license patents on its operating system inventions (other than those that differentiate the appearance of Microsoft’s products) on fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft’s intellectual property rights.
- Standards. Microsoft is committed to supporting a wide range of industry standards in Windows that developers can use to build interoperable products. Microsoft is committed to contributing to industry standard bodies as well as working to establish standards via ad hoc relationships with others in the industry.
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.
Competition drives investment and innovation. Customers always win when there is competition and choice. It has never been easier, or cheaper, to start a company and attract users. The web has changed everything, and Microsoft is changing with it.