Feeds

'Fuzzy' royalties policies challenge Microsoft's open API pledge

The devil, the details, and Windows

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Mix 08 Royalties charged by Microsoft on Windows APIs and protocols are the next hurdle the company must clear in its wooing of open source developers.

Leading open source figures have questioned charges Microsoft makes on its protocols and APIs, with a call to clarify whether Windows server, client and application APIs and protocols that Microsoft has pledged to "open" will come free of charge, and how payments - if levied - would be collected.

Developers welcomed last week's move to publish the APIs and protocols, but Microsoft was called on to take rapid steps to clarify the current, "fuzzy" pricing situation. Microsoft has said it will publish a mighty wad of 30,000 pages of documentation.

Andi Gutmans, chief technology officer of Zend Technologies and a leading PHP contributor, told Reg Dev he's "very interested" in Microsoft's Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) for sending emails from within a Windows application, which he'd like to see in PHP, along with APIs for Word.

Gutmans, though, said he's not confident he can use them without getting charged. He's called on Microsoft to cut through those 30,000 pages of documentation using a simple-to-follow table. "It's not very clear which pieces of the spec I can implement royalty free," Gutmans said.

Miguel de Icaza, leading his second effort porting a major Microsoft architecture to open source, warmly welcomed the decision to publish protocols and APIs, but predicted Microsoft would continue to draw flack for charging royalties.

De Icaza's Moonlight - an open source version of the Silverlight cross-browser plug in - is benefiting from access to Microsoft's test suites and from a Media Pack, a bundle of media codecs worth $1m that Microsoft has licensed from major codec patent holders.

"It's good that Microsoft is opening up the protocols, but in this world where Microsoft makes most of its money from corporate shipments and [where] we are moving into a world of online presence, the licensing of patents is such a tiny piece. Microsoft is getting heat for good reason - why are you trying to monetize this?"

Lack of clarity on what is royalty free and what is charged is likely to prevent open source developers from taking advantage of Microsoft's APIs and protocols, for fear of incurring hidden and excessive charges on products they build that incorporate Microsoft-authored interfaces and protocols.

That's a problem because access to Microsoft's protocols and APIs will help speed development, as developers don't need to re-invent the wheel, and improve interoperability between Windows and open-source systems.

Confusion seems to be a way of life for Microsoft, though. A major criticism of its Office Open XML (OOXML) effort has been an apparent attempt to railroad the specification by giving standards chiefs more information - 6,000 pages - than can be practically digested in the time available under the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) fast-track process. The rival Open Document Formant (ODF) weighs in at 722 pages.

Regulators, meanwhile, have repeatedly taken Microsoft to task for not publishing sufficiently clear details on pricing and terms and conditions of protocols released under the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), an initiative that came out of the US Government's long-running, anti-trust prosecution earlier this decade.®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.