Microsoft moves get mixed response

Developer reaction is mixed to Microsoft moves last week to open access to its interfaces and protocols.

In an action interpreted as Microsoft attempting to anticipate the court remedy in its antitrust case, it has begun to sell licences for 113 communications protocols used to interoperate between servers and Windows XP and Windows 2000 Professional. And on August 28 it will release free to developers 272 application programming interfaces (API) for middleware products, such as instant messaging, media player and email client.

The head of Auckland CRM application developer 3-tier.com, Tim Muhundan, says access to messaging APIs could have direct benefits.

"I am especially interested in instant messaging and appointment scheduling client APIs," says Muhundan. "Our CRM application is a smart client running on Windows so it will be pretty easy for us to make use of the APIs directly, or wrap it in a web service and expose it to web clients."

Others, however, say the licensing cost of the communications protocols will be central to the value of the Microsoft move.

"Given that it's on a royalty basis, Microsoft is tying its success to the success of newly developed products," says Kieron Lawson, technical director at Auckland software company GuideTools.com.

"The key here is that to develop products that compete directly with Microsoft products, the royalty component needs to be a significantly small proportion of the cost of the equivalent Microsoft product to be economically viable."

Lawson says the cynical view is Microsoft is only intent on appeasing the US courts. "If that is the case, then you'd have to wonder what cards it's still holding to its chest."

A Microsoft New Zealand tools manager, Tony Ward, says the communications protocol programme is intended to help developers write a range of server products.

"This gives developers here the opportunity to build on top of Microsoft technologies and continue to deliver added value and choice to their customers."

IDC US analyst Dan Kusnetzky says pricing will be the key. If the royalties are too high the disclosures will have "very little or no impact", he says.

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