Things have certainly changed. The software giant is showing an increasing tendency to open up its software to the world via application programming interfaces (APIs) and also a more general willingness to discuss its products in the pipeline.
Several examples of this have surfaced recently, involving Microsoft's efforts in business intelligence and data management. As Mary Jo Foley wrote on ZDNet, Microsoft introduced BI Labs, a site that allows folks to preview nascent technologies that may ultimately become part of its solutions. (Or not. As Foley cautions, Microsoft may end these projects unexpectedly.)
Anyone can download them and experiment with them, and an introductory video says more prototypes and grassroots projects are forthcoming. Among the tools currently featured on the site: a tool for formatting MDX and DAX queries, a tool for SQL Server data mining for the cloud and a Fuzzy Look-Up add-in for Excel.
Microsoft's Project Barcelona, an initiative that promises to make it easier to search and store enterprise data, will feature a "completely open" base platform, according to the company's project leader, Andrew Conrad. The project involves crawlers that will search Microsoft products such as SQL Server, Excel and SharePoint, and an index server with an API that will allow querying.
The project's "overall design embraces the decentralized and web-like nature of the modern enterprise," wrote Conrad in a blog post. The initial audience is database administrators, but Conrad said in his post that Microsoft will support metadata augmentation and offer rich annotation support (both crawler support and via server API), in hopes that developers and end users will "leverage the crawlers and Index server in ways we haven't even thought about."