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The software maker announced that it would begin a licensing programme for the Windows communication protocols. This is designed to allow third parties to create server software that can communicate with Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP and future operating systems.
It planned to license 12 core Windows technologies: for file serving, print serving and streaming media. It also said it would reveal 300 new Windows application programming interfaces to help third-party developers create new Windows applications.
While the decision to open up its proprietary technology may be seen as beneficial to third-party developers and users, Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president of system software at market research firm IDC, questioned how long the new APIs would remain valid.
"Is Microsoft committing to live with these APIs for a certain specific period of time, or is this transitory?" he said, noting that companies would be rightfully chagrined to invest money in research and development only to have Microsoft change the technology.
Kusnetzky was also concerned that Microsoft would see the licensing scheme as a revenue opportunity.
Microsoft's moves appear to be an attempt to ease anticompetitive concerns about the software maker and fend off more stringent remedies.
Microsoft has already loosened its licensing terms with PC manufacturers. Under pressure from the federal court case, the software maker made concessions last year, such as allowing PC manufacturers to remove access to the company's Internet Explorer Web browser and giving them choices on how to configure the Windows XP desktop.
This has now gone a step further. With the introduction of Windows XP Service Pack 1 next month, Microsoft said PC manufacturers would be able to remove the Internet Explorer browser, Media Player, Outlook Express, Microsoft Messenger and Microsoft Java Virtual Machine.
Microsoft's announcement comes as US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly considers a remedy ruling in the DOJ's five-year antitrust case against the software maker.
The US government and nine of the 18 US states that pursued the antitrust case against Microsoft reached a settlement last year, although the nine remaining states refused to go along, saying the settlement did not do enough to rein in the software maker.