Microsoft unveils principles

Attempting to convince the world that it is serious about doing business fairly, Microsoft has unveiled 12 guiding principles that the software giant has pledged to follow in the future development of its Windows operating system (OS) — including Vista.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  July 30, 2006

Attempting to convince the world that it is serious about doing business fairly, Microsoft has unveiled 12 guiding principles that the software giant has pledged to follow in the future development of its Windows operating system (OS) — including Vista. The announcement came exactly a week after the European Commission slapped Microsoft with a massive US$357.3million fine for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust ruling that the software developer had abused its dominant market position. Microsoft’s general council Brad Smith outlined the set of ‘voluntary principles’ during a speech hosted by US public policy institute the New America Foundation in Washington DC, US, on July 19. “Our goal is to be principled and transparent as we develop new versions of Windows,” Smith told the audience. “These voluntary principles are intended to provide the industry and consumers with the benefits of ongoing innovation, while creating and preserving robust opportunities for competition,” he added. Microsoft has divided the principles into three general categories: choice for computer manufacturers and customers, opportunity for developers and interoperability for users. The software developer committed itself to making it easy to install non-Microsoft programs and to configure Windows-based PCs to use non-Microsoft programs. It also committed to creating opportunities for applications developers and web site creators to build products on the Windows platform — including those that directly compete with Microsoft’s own products. The announcement has been seen in part as an attempt to head off criticism of its upcoming Vista OS, which is scheduled for release next year. Microsoft’s rivals have already been drawing authorities attention to aspects of Vista that, they claim, could violate antitrust rules. European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes wrote to the company’s CEO Steve Ballmer in March to express concerns about the forthcoming OS, and, following this month’s ruling, she told Cnet online news service: “A significant number of companies, both European and American, are expressing concerns to us on the potential competition implications of Vista.” Smith stressed that the principles did not supplant the continued application of antitrust law or the important role of government agencies and the courts in applying those laws. “Microsoft is committed both to full compliance with antitrust law and to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with governments and others in the industry — both in the US and around the world,” he stated. “We’re not suggesting that the Windows principles will address every question raised by regulators and competitors. However, the fact that there are unanswered questions shouldn’t impede the adoption of a broad set of principles in those areas where there is clarity and consensus,” he added. Smith went on to say that he thought it was critical for Microsoft and regulators to engage in open and constructive dialogue with a goal of resolving issues during product development and before the release of new products.

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