Meet the new Microsoft, same as the old Microsoft

microsoftlogoMany people were excited this morning about a “significant” announcement that Microsoft promised to make during a live teleconference. The announcement, as it has turned out: A wide-sweeping pledge to be more “interoperable.” The verdict: Not so significant.

You see, Microsoft has made these type of promises to open up in the past and yet they have made little, if any, difference. Even writers known to take Microsoft’s side of an argument such as ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley are rightfully skeptical.

Microsoft has four new interoperability principles they are laying out: (1) ensuring open connections; (2) promoting data portability; (3) enhancing support for industry standards; and (4) fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities.

So why make this announcement? There are three potential reasons:

First, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is holding its meeting next week to determine if Microsoft’s new Office Open XML format should become an ISO standard. Microsoft really wants this to happen as it will mean a future for yet another format it has created.

Second, at least part of the reason why Yahoo and many others are adverse to a potential Microsoft deal is the poor reputation Microsoft has within the developer community towards things like open standards. Microsoft has not yet formally gone into hostile mode in its bid to buy Yahoo, so perhaps this is one final olive branch before the punches start being thrown (our coverage).

Third, Microsoft also has its new Danger deal to consider (our coverage). While both this and their potential Yahoo deal are thought to pass U.S. regulators, the European Union has been much stricter towards such deals – especially when Microsoft is involved. A pledge to be more “open” can only help Microsoft in deals such as these.

With Ray Ozzie taking over as chief software architect for the departing Bill Gates, there is certainly a chance the company actually means to change its ways going forward. Ozzie, a veteran of Lotus Notes and Groove, two collaboration-based applications, would seem to have a mindset more in line with the open Internet. However, as they say, actions speak louder than words.