In an email to business chiefs made public today, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, discussed the companies plans to make their software more interoperable with other systems.
"Interoperability is more pragmatic than other approaches, such as attempting to make all systems compatible at the code level, focusing solely on adding new layers of middleware that try to make all systems look and act the same, or seeking to make different systems interchangeable. With a common understanding of basic protocols, different software can interact smoothly with little or no specific knowledge of each other. The Internet is perhaps the most obvious example of this kind of interoperability, where any piece of software can connect and exchange data as long as it adheres to the key protocols.
Simply put, interoperability is a proven approach for dealing with the diversity and heterogeneity of the marketplace. Today I want to focus on two major thrusts of Microsoft's product interoperability strategy: First, we continue to support customers' needs for software that works well with what they have today. Second, we are working with the industry to define a new generation of software and Web services based on eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which enables software to efficiently share information and opens the door to a greater degree of "interoperability by design" across many different kinds of software.
Our goal is to harness all the power inherent in modern (and not so modern) business software, and enable them to work together so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We want to further eliminate friction among heterogeneous architectures and applications without compromising their distinctive underlying capabilities."
Gates continued to talk about how Microsoft planned to implement these ideas, and how it already had; Gates pointed to Office 2003 as an example of the company making use of XML technology. He also made the point that "interoperability is also confused with open source software". Microsoft face tough competition from Linux based products which are open source and allow users to modify the underlying system code. Part of the recent European Union judgement on Microsoft involved making the company make it easier for other software vendors to inter opt with their products. Previous messages from Gates delivered in a similar manner have proved to be major policy changes for Microsoft.