Microsoft Publishes Windows APIs

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Microsoft Wednesday disclosed a variety of Windows technical information that the company said would bring it in line with the settlement it reached with the Department of Justice last fall.

As it announced earlier this month, the Redmond, Wash., company disclosed 272 internal application programming interfaces (APIs) that would allow competitors to design application that interoperate with Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows operating system. The APIs are available on the Microsoft Developer Network Web site.

Microsoft's middleware programs use the APIs to interact with both Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. Critics of Microsoft have long charged that the company has used the APIs as insurance that non-Microsoft products do not function as well on the 90 percent of computers running Windows operating systems.

Microsoft said it would publish the APIs, in addition to licensing 113 communications protocols, to bring the company in line with a number of upcoming deadlines imposed on the company in its settlement with the Justice Department in November. The settlement still needs to be certified by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who earlier this summer heard closing arguments from the nine states that rejected the federal government settlement. She is expected to rule on the case in early fall.

With the APIs disclosed and the communications-protocol licensing program begun earlier this month, the next item on Microsoft's to-do list from the settlement is the widespread release of Windows XP Service Pack 1, which Microsoft began beta testing early this summer.The service pack is designed to give computer makers and consumers the ability to avoid Microsoft five middleware programs: Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player, and Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine. Microsoft has said it will be available in early September.

The XP Service Pack is designed to answer the charges that Microsoft forces computer makers and user to choose its programs over those from rivals. For example, it will include on Windows a new start menu button called "set program access and defaults" that allows users four choices: computer-maker's settings; Microsoft only; non-Microsoft only; and customized. The default choice is customized.

The new options could help computer manufacturers, who can now choose third-party middleware, as well as rival manufacturers of Microsoft products like AOL Time Warner and RealNetworks.

Microsoft's moves to comply with the still-pending settlement could be washed away in Judge Kollar-Kotelly's ruling. The states want more widespread remedies, including Microsoft publishing its entire Windows source code. Microsoft has refused to consider a compromise that goes further than its settlement with the Justice Department.

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