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Microsoft opens key software details to rivals

Microsoft opens key software details to rivals

Microsoft Corp, faced with regulatory concerns in Europe and customers struggling with complex computer systems, said on Thursday it would publish critical information so rival programs can work better with Windows, Office and other major products.

The world's largest software maker will share the underlying technology that connects its software to other programs, considered a built-in advantage that has been the basis of antitrust scrutiny of the company.

Microsoft's new policies are seen as a way of heading off future battles with regulators in Europe, Asia and the United States who have long accused it of using its dominant position to move into new businesses and squeeze out competitors.

Microsoft said it published more than 30,000 pages of Windows documentation that had only been available previously with a trade secret license and it also pledged to license patents at low royalty rates and without discrimination.

Microsoft said it would follow up with more actions to address all the demands of European regulators, although the European Commission said Thursday's move did not resolve a key issue about how Microsoft's products are tied together and that Microsoft had made similar promises before.

The company's moves bring Microsoft closer in line with a software development trend taking root on the Internet based on creating new programs using parts of existing applications. Web companies such as Google Inc and Facebook embrace open systems, as well as community-developed software such as Linux.

Microsoft said customers are asking for all computer systems to work with one another regardless of whether they run on Windows or Linux. The customers also want to be able to move and share information and data easily between systems.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who called the financial impact from Thursday's shift "relatively minimal," acknowledged that Microsoft may lose some market share as a result of these policies, but said what is good for customers will ultimately be good for the company.


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