Microsoft tweaks protocol licensing programme

In response to criticism from US government antitrust regulators, Microsoft has detailed additional changes to a licensing...

In response to criticism from US government antitrust regulators, Microsoft has detailed additional changes to a licensing programme for Windows protocols it created as part of its landmark antitrust settlement.

The changes are to make it easier and more attractive for software makers to license the protocols, which can be used to make server software work better with PCs running Microsoft's Windows client operating system.

Microsoft is reviewing the proposed changes to the Microsoft Communications Protocol Programme (MCPP) with the US Department of Justice and officials from the states it settled with.

The licence agreement should be posted to the MCPP website soon.

The proposed changes will halve  the length of the licence agreement and change the royalty model for protocols for six of 14 server tasks to a flat fee. Also, about 20 protocols for general network connectivity will be licensed without a charge.

The company also proposes changes to the licence to make it easier for companies to sign it. Microsoft's right to audit a licensee's users will be scrapped and licensees will get a clear right to distribute to another MCPP licensee on a royalty-free basis.

Last week, Microsoft said it would detail revisions after the states that it settled the antitrust case with critiqued the programme in a court filing on Microsoft's compliance with the November 2002 settlement.

The MCPP was created to allow software makers better connection with Microsoft, which has a monopoly in the desktop operating system market. However, it does not seem to be working as intended as only 11 companies have signed up. Microsoft is in discussions with more than 20 additional potential licensees.

Microsoft has relied on industry and government feedback to improve the MCPP and make it more appealing to software developers as the licensing programme is unprecedented and the technology it covers complex, said Mary Snapp, Microsoft corporate vice-president and deputy general counsel.

Microsoft modified the MCPP last August, revamping the royalty structure and revising licence terms.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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