Microsoft will publish and make available the protocols for several of its more popular software products in an attempt to work more closely with open and non-Microsoft software developers.
As part of the company's initiative, it said it will provide a covenant not to sue open-source software developers for accessing and distributing its software blueprints.
Microsoft shares were up less than 1 percent Thursday.
Microsoft is hoping to make it easier for software developers to make products that work well with the Vista computer operating system, Office word processing application and other key Microsoft products.
"Customers need all their vendors, including and especially Microsoft, to deliver software and services that are flexible enough such that any developer can use their open interfaces and data to effectively integrate applications or to compose entirely new solutions," said Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie in a statement.
Microsoft said its new "interoperability principles" will apply to Windows Vista -- including the .NET Framework -- Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007, and future versions of those products.
Google has been successful in encouraging developers to make add-ons for Google's maps and other popular services. Google is increasing challenging Microsoft's dominance in software products.
Microsoft also hopes its new initiative will help it resolve ongoing disputes with regulators in the European Union, but the European Commission gave Microsoft a tepid response Thursday.
In September, a European Union court upheld a landmark ruling that the world's biggest software maker had abused its dominant market position.
The court endorsed Commission sanctions against Microsoft for tying together software and its refusal to give rival makers of office computer servers information to allow their products to work smoothly with Windows.
The court also said Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft was unjustified in tying new applications -- or software programs -- to its Windows operating system in a way that squeezed out rivals and harmed consumer choice.
In January, the European Commission launched new antitrust investigations into Microsoft to see whether the company broke competition rules to help its Web browser and its Office and Outlook products.
The EU said in a statement Thursday it has seen four other statements in the past that are similar to Microsoft's most recent "interoperability principles."
The EU also said it would welcome any move toward "genuine interoperability."
Regulators added they'll continue to check if Microsoft is complying with antitrust rules.