The controversy surrounding Microsoft licensing fees for interoperability protocols in Europe took a new turn today when Microsoft announced that they had found the first licensee for the protocols offered as a result of the European Commission antitrust decision:
Quest Software, Inc. and Microsoft Corp. today jointly announced that Quest has become the first licensee in the Microsoft Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) established following the European Commission’s March 2004 decision.
Quest plans to develop innovative software solutions, incorporating Microsoft protocols, which will provide customers with expanded capability to integrate Unix, Linux and Java authentication systems with Active Directory beyond what is available from Quest today.
Microsoft developed the protocol licensing program to meet its obligations under the European Commission’s March 2004 decision, which required Microsoft to expand upon the protocol licensing it already offered under a U.S.-based licensing program. While 27 companies have licensed Microsoft protocol technology through the U.S. program, Quest is the first company to license protocols in the European program.
The point here is that Microsoft can now refute the European Commission contention that their protocols are overpriced with this empirical evidence of one. Not surprisingly, there were some scoffers:
Rivals, however, say the licenses do nothing in the work group server market as far as making software work smoothly with Windows desktops, as the EU wants.
The licenses are useful to companies that make products complementary to Microsoft, said Thomas Vinje, spokesman for a group of Microsoft’s rivals — the European Committee for Interoperable Systems.
“It’s window-dressing arranged by Microsoft to cover up its refusal to comply with the Commission decision,” Vinje said. “Quest is not a competitor of Microsoft. It is a partner of Microsoft’s.”
Vinje said the license program charged “utterly unreasonable” fees designed to be economically unfeasible. He said Microsoft’s terms shut out the only real rival left in the work group server market — vendors such as RedHat — that base their products on the open source Linux software.
Joe Wilcox casts a similarly skeptical eye on the announcement and observes that the key EC complaint was about lack of innovation to warrant the prices charged and that the Quest deal does nothing to change that.