Recently, I wrote about how Microsoft has become a company more customer-focused, how it is now part of the review process to demonstrate concrete actions of customer service.
Over the past few months, it seems to me that the company has become more open.
With .NET, Microsoft provided essentially the sources to the libraries with the Rotor source code, complete with ports to BSD and Macintosh. Over the past year, Microsoft provided access to source code to various governments and corporations. Just this past week, they are opening sourcecode to MVPs. Microsoft opened up the Visual Studio Integration Program, which used to cost $10,000 to all developers. They have also recently started an Empowerment program for new software developers, that provides approximately another $10 K worth of Microsoft software, kits and betas, for just $750.
If you have read this post from Scobelizer, Microsoft is attempting to get developers, press people, customers and so on to get an early peek at Longhorn, two to three years out, at PDC. This PDC is different, because it doesn't actually impose an NDA. Essentially, Microsoft is trying to get and incorporate customer feedback in designing Longhorn so that "Longhorn doesn't suck." Previously, customer feedback was available only when it was too late; now, customers can actually affect the development of the OS at the midpoint of its development.