The Twelve Commandments

If the twelve commandments recently published by Microsoft are to be believed its good news for open source. It is saying that the anti competitive behaviours of its past are behind it, that it will no longer punish retailers and OEM's for distributing PC's with other than Microsoft products on them.

This is the consequence of US anti trust rules and huge fines by the EU, first in 2004, and again in 2006 for failure to comply with the EU ruling. The question is whether this document represents a real change of culture at Microsoft, or whether it is simply a public relations exercise to turn a public admonishment by the EU into something more positive.

The twelve points are divided into three sections. The first section relates to giving manufacturers the choice of which operating system or software they wish to install. They promise to give OEM's the tools to install non Microsoft software as default for browsers and media players. This will be good news for Firefox and OpenOffice.

The second section deals with developers and the availability of API's that Microsoft has kept secret from external developers and leveraged interally so it would have a advantage over competitors. These are the same API's that the EU has scolded Microsoft over for not providing adequate documentation over.

The final section relates to interoperability for users, committing to make communication protocols available, on "commercially reasonable terms". This would conveniently exclude open source competition. The same applies to its patents, licensing them under similar terms.

They also commit to supporting standards, although it does not explicitly state that it will be supporting the ISO standard XML Open Document Format, although they did recently release news that they support ODF through a open source plug in which they didn't help develop.