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Microsoft Bows to EU, Makes Comm Protocols Public

Key communications protocols made available by Redmond.

Microsoft is making key communications protocols available for license, so that third parties, including competitors, can link into the company's newest enterprise products. Some are available immediately.

The list of available protocols, XML schemas and application programming interfaces (APIs) include transport protocols for communications between Office Outlook 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.

"[With the license,] other companies can implement the Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol specification in their own products or use it to enhance their existing products," company statements said.

The Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol supports personal information management features such as e-mail, calendar, contacts and task functionality in Office Outlook 2007, including shared calendars and scheduling capabilities. The protocol is available for licensing now, although Microsoft will continue to tinker with the specifications until June or so.

Also immediately available for license are protocols, Web services definitions, client configuration options, XML schema files and other technology for Office Collaboration Server, which brings SharePoint Server into the mix.

"The Microsoft Office Collaboration Server Licensing Program provides the documentation and associated intellectual property rights to enable server products, including those competitive with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, to take advantage of the interoperability features in the 2007 Office suite," the statements said.

Using those protocols, Office 2007 applications can be configured to work with competing document management servers so they can publish Office 2007 information -- such as Excel 2007 spreadsheets -- to those servers instead of SharePoint Server. They can also enable Outlook 2007 to work with those servers for collaboration functions.

Level Playing Field
Microsoft also announced it will make licenses available for the Live Communications Server 2005 Protocol Extensions. That will enable licensees to develop servers that can provide presence and instant messaging capabilities to Office Communicator 2005 users.

Microsoft will begin that effort by providing early adopter licensees initial documentation in April, the statements said.

Of course, the licenses are not free. And, to a large extent, Microsoft is bowing to the European Commission, which decreed the company must make the interfaces public so rivals can compete on what they claim will be a more level playing field.

"The licensing is part of the settlement with the EU to interoperate," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for market researcher Enderle Group.

However, if Microsoft officials were hoping the latest licensing steps will be enough to satisfy rivals and critics, that outcome is not in the cards, Enderle predicted.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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