Microsoft has signed up the first licensee for the workgroup server protocols the European Commission ordered it to open up to competitors in a 2004 antitrust ruling, it said Thursday.
The announcement comes a week after the commission sent Microsoft a “statement of objections,” saying it was not satisfied that the information Microsoft planned to provide under its Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) warranted the prices the company planned to charge.
The licensee, Quest Software of Aliso Viejo, Calif., plans to use Microsoft’s User and Group Administration protocol set in products based on Microsoft’s Active Directory, extending the way those products link with Unix, Linux and Java authentication systems, the companies said Thursday. Quest develops software for Active Directory administration and data recovery, in addition to tools for application, database and server administration.
The companies signed their licensing deal on March 1, the day the commission published its objections, said Tom Brookes, a spokesman for Microsoft. Quest will pay the full list price to which the commission objected, 5.25 percent of net revenue on the products in which the protocols are being integrated, Brookes said.
The commission ordered Microsoft to create the WSPP as one of the remedies in a March 2004 antitrust ruling, in which it found Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the desktop operating system market to gain advantages in the markets for media players and workgroup server software. It ordered Microsoft to pay a 497 million-euro (then about US$600 million) fine, release a version of Windows without an integrated media player, and release details of the protocols used for communication between computers running the desktop and workgroup server versions of Windows, to enable competitors to build interoperable software. Microsoft is still appealing the ruling, but paid the fine and released the software and protocol information anyway.
Since the ruling, the commission has complained that Microsoft is not releasing the right kind of information fast enough, while Microsoft has protested that the commission has not made its demands clear. In July 2006, the commission fined Microsoft an additional 280.5 million euros for the delays, a ruling Microsoft appealed in October. Last week, the commission signaled that the protocol information Microsoft had provided was not innovative enough to justify its price.
Microsoft created a similar licensing program in the United States, in response to an antitrust ruling there. That program has so far attracted 27 licensees.
-Peter Sayer, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)
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