Microsoft is offering greater access to its intellectual property in a bid to increase interoperability and innovation in the market.
The firm said it would begin to make its intellectual property available at "fair and reasonable terms" to any company, potentially even competitors.
The deal extends across more than 4,000 pieces of intellectual property, including copyrights, schema, trademarks, software technology and file formats, with academic communities being granted royalty-free licences for non-commercial use.
This includes the introduction of two new intellectual property licensing programmes, for ClearType, a technology improving the readability of text on LCDs, and for its File Allocation Table file system for storage.
"[People] would like to see Microsoft share more technology," said Brad Smith, the software giant's senior vice president and general counsel.
"This is the kind of step that will enhance and promote interoperability and will result in greater consumer choice."
Analyst firm Butler Group welcomed the move, saying it would make it easier for smaller Microsoft partners to integrate their software development with Microsoft products. But it added that Redmond still had a lot to do to bring about full industry interoperability.
Tim Jennings, research director at Butler Group, said Microsoft is still being "cagey" about exactly what intellectual property it will be making available, especially for its Windows and Office products.
"If it is going to have a real impact then some of the core technologies and interfaces for Windows and Office need to be opened up," he said.
Jennings cited IBM as a company that has done very well from making its IP widely available to the market, and suggested that Microsoft could learn from this approach.
The IP policy is a "nodding gesture" to the antitrust issues Microsoft is facing from the European Union, he added, but one that will not sway any decisions.
Smith denied this suggestion, saying that the policy was not linked to the antitrust case in the European Union.
"I really do not see this announcement as relating directly to issues in Brussels," he added.
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