Microsoft releases document format translator

Microsoft is preparing updates for its interoperability efforts including an API/protocol documentation beta for all its major products by this May.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Microsoft said that in May it will release an API and protocol documentation beta for such products as Windows Server 2008 and Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The software company has already published more than 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols when it said in late February that it would start publicly sharing configuration and development information for its products, previously only available via a trade secret license.

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The first full version release of this documentation will make an appearance on the Web by the end of the summer. API and protocol documentation for Windows Server 2008, SharePoint Server 2007, Exchange Server 2007, Windows Vista and SQL Server 2008, will be grouped by product and include navigation tools.

"This will give [IT administrators] better information on how Active Directory or a database needs to work with other products," said Tom Robertson, general manager, corporate interoperability and standards at Microsoft, at an event here. "It will give them much better information on problem solving and configurations and, longer term, more interoperability options with Microsoft or new third-party products."

A sidebar will also accompany the documentation to help developers decipher what technology tied to the protocols has a patent, meaning the developer will have to pay what Microsoft is calling a low royalty fee should the protocol be used in the commercial development of a product.

When asked when royalty rates would be published, Robertson said Microsoft is still working on establishing these undisclosed rates.

Microsoft also rolled out release 1.1 of a translator between OpenDocument Format and Open XML for Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations that have performance and fidelity improvements.

Pressure from the European Commission to open up its APIs and protocols to competitors and the public in general did, in part, influence Microsoft's recent initiatives and announcements.

"The [EC decision that required open protocols] applied to workgroup server-to-server protocols, and our [new interoperability principles] underlies that decision," Robertson said. "There's no question about that, but you can see we are doing many other things not covered in that decision."

Robertson said Microsoft has gone beyond what the EC called for with its intent to establish open forums and open source interoperability initiatives for co-operative development, labs and technical resources. But Robertson was quick to clarify that Microsoft, and the industry, is just getting started when it comes to making systems work together.

"We are not solving the interoperability issue, we're not going to be able to do that," Robertson said. "Other issues will come up, legacy issues, but also new ones, so deeper dialogue among the community is needed and we'd like to be a catalyst for this dialogue."

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