Still, Ballmer cautioned that end-users shouldn't expect to see much change for some time. "Any opening up doesn't happen overnight," he said during the Q&A session. "I think it will be more like years than days" before end-users notice the effects of Thursday's announcements, he said.
Microsoft finds it hard to predict what kinds of new products might become available to users because of this change. "One thing the Net has shown is that sometimes, constraints around standards can be quite liberating to developers," said Ozzie. "Many times, new services pop out of nowhere once a standard is there and once interoperability principles are established, because we can't think of the different potential uses of customer data and how to interface with products."
Ballmer said he doesn't expect the licensing changes to affect Microsoft's bottom line. "The amount of trade secrets licensing fees we forgo will be minimal," he said. The licensing changes are risky, he acknowledged, but the potential benefit for third parties to add value around Microsoft offerings balances the risk, he said.
While Thursday's announcements are related to Microsoft's legal problems in Europe, Ballmer argued that the changes were more driven by the market. "The announcement today is driven by what we're hearing from industry participants," he said.
Microsoft's Interoperability Executive Customer (IEC) Council will oversee the new principles and initiatives to help keep the company honest. The IEC is an advisory board established in 2006 and comprised mainly of chief information and technology officers from more than 40 companies and government institutions worldwide.
More information about the news can be found on Microsoft interoperability website.