Microsoft tweaks protocol licensing

Microsoft Corp. on Friday bowed to pressure from antitrust regulators and said it would make additional operating system protocols available to developers and alter the structure of its licensing fees.

The company said it would simplify the licensing agreement that is part of its Microsoft Communications Protocol Program, which was established under an anti-trust settlement in 2002. Under the program, which began in August of that year, Microsoft has made available some 100 protocols that were previously unpublished, a move designed to level the playing field for developers of third-party products that run on Windows desktops and servers.

The communications protocols enable third-party server software running on Windows to interoperate or communicate natively with the Windows desktop operating system.

A fortnight ago, the Justice Department in a filing to U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said MCPP had "fallen short of the settlement requirements and needed additional work.

In response, Microsoft said it will now make approximately 20 protocols available without charge, making other protocols used to perform particular tasks available for a fixed fee or fixed fee per unit, and changing the evaluation program to provide prospective licensees with samples of the technical documentation with no confidentiality restrictions.

To date, 11 companies license Microsoft's protocols under the MCPP program.

Microsoft is in the process of reviewing the changes with the Justice Department and various attorneys from the states that were involved in litigation against Microsoft. Once the review is complete, the software giant said it would post the agreement on its Web site.

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