Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is leading his company on a new mission toward interoperability.

In an email sent to customers, Gates promised the company would work harder to make its software work better with "other software systems and hardware", according to Reuters.

In its mission to remain relevant in an IT industry that increasingly favours heterogenous networks above single OS monocultures, the company has also launched a Web site devoted to interoperability.

Unusually, given the company's once renowned "embrace-and-extend" approach to Web standards, Gates points to the Internet as "the most obvious example" of the kind of interoperability he has in mind.

The Internet is a place, "where any piece of software can connect and exchange data as long as it adheres to the key protocols," he said.