A Perspective on Openness

Earlier today I spoke about “openness” at the USI Conference in Paris. The conference was organized around four themes: innovation, sustainability, openness and value. I was a little surprised when the conference organizers asked me to speak on the “open” topic. After all, there has been a lot of debate over the years about whether Microsoft is open enough, and whether we are supportive of open source and open standards. These debates have gotten heated at times, and have even been characterized as more “religious” than technical.


Jean-Philippe Courtois

Jean-Philippe Courtois, president, Microsoft International.


But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a new pragmatism emerge in this debate. It’s a pragmatism that has led us to work with many companies, communities, standards groups, governments and customers to address industry and customer interoperability and openness goals. I was humbled to be given the opportunity to talk about this work, and what we have learned along the way.

My speech explored the various definitions of openness, and how “open” and “closed” technology can effectively coexist. In particular, though, I shared a couple of the lessons we have learned on our journey toward greater openness. The first lesson is that choice is critical. The second lesson is actually one that transcends all of our business, which is that when the software ecosystem succeeds, we succeed.

I also talked about how this commitment to openness has influenced our approach to cloud computing. I believe that these two lessons I discussed — choice and ecosystem — are fundamental to the success of any player who wants to lead in the cloud computing space. Choice is important because when it comes to openness, one of the concerns we hear is a fear of vendor lock-in. Choice is critical to adoption. This underlines the fact that the cloud creates both opportunities and responsibilities.

The opportunities come in the form of new, open platforms, and environments where the underlying software development model or type of software license becomes less relevant to the customer than the associated SLA. The responsibilities revolve around ensuring data is not only secure, and privacy concerns are addressed, but that the data is portable — from cloud to on-premise, from cloud to cloud, from platform to platform.

I ended my speech by emphasizing that we understand deeply that playing well with others, listening to our customers and ensuring openness in the cloud are critical to our future success, and to the success of our customers and partners. We know we don’t do all of these things perfectly yet, but we are actively working toward them, and we are listening hard to our customers and partners to ensure we’re doing the right things to help them succeed.

Posted by Jean-Philippe Courtois

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