Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Microsoft Easing Windows Licensing Requirements

With the high-profile launch of its Windows Server 2003 operating system
rapidly approaching, Microsoft moved to lessen
restrictions and fees it charges competitors to see the innards of the
server operating system.

In a company statement, Microsoft said: “in compliance with the settlement
agreement and final judgment of the Court, Microsoft has made available on
reasonable and non-discriminatory terms the protocols implemented in
certain
Windows desktop products that are used to interoperate or communicate
natively with Microsoft server operating system products. These protocols
are available to be licensed to others in the industry on a royalty basis
for the sole purpose of creating server software to interoperate or
communicate with Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP and successor
desktop
operating systems.”

The more open stance is a concession to Department of Justice concerns
about its compliance with the terms of its antitrust
settlement
, which stipulated that the firm must ensure that
non-Microsoft server software can interoperate with Windows the
same way the Microsoft applications do.

The settlement terms required Microsoft to license its APIs in
a reasonable and non-discriminatory manner. The APIs allow Microsoft to
smoothly integrate its own applications with its operating system. With
the APIs in hand, competitors will find it easier to create interfaces for
their applications which are more consistent with the overall Windows
environment.

But Microsoft implemented that remedy with a requirement that those who
license the APIs agree to a non-disclosure agreement which sharply limited their ability to share the information they garnered. Only three firms
signed that agreement, raising red flags at the Justice Department.

To ease DoJ fears, Microsoft said it would “publish virtually all
information about the
operating system, including sample license documents and brief summaries of
each of
the protocols, on a publicly accessible website that anyone can view.”

The move to allow competitors greater access to aspects of
the Windows code comes only after months of negotiations between the
company’s lawyers and the legal staff of the Justice Department, which has
the responsibility of overseeing the terms of its antitrust settlement
agreement.

Microsoft and the Justice Department still have to work out some details
regarding its Windows licensing concessions, but neither side would
disclose
those remaining specific issues.

While the non-disclosure requirements have been eased, the company noted,
“Companies and individuals will of course continue to be required to
protect any intellectual property that they license.”

Since August, Microsoft has worked collaboratively with the DoJ, States and
existing and prospective licensees to elicit feedback and to fine-tune its
approach to making these protocols readily available to companies seeking
to
implement them in their products. Many of those changes have been
implemented already. In the coming weeks, Microsoft will announce and
implement an additional set of proposed changes that will further simplify
entry to, and participation in, the program, Microsoft said in a press
release.

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