Microsoft announced on Thursday that it landed Quest Software as its first licensee in a protocol technology program formed following action by European antitrust regulators.
The program, which stems from the European Commission's historic March 2004 order, requires Microsoft to license its protocol technology at "reasonable and nondiscriminatory" terms. A goal of the program is to provide all licensees, even Microsoft rivals, with the ability to create server-based products that will interoperate with Microsoft's technology.
Microsoft's license to Quest comes at a key time for the software giant. Late last week, the Commission issued a formal statement of objections, warning Microsoft that it could face further penalties under the March order because of concerns that the company's pricing for licenses was too high. Microsoft has approximately four weeks to respond to the Commission's objections.
Quest, which develops application, database and Windows management software, is participating in the Microsoft Work Group Server Protocol Program.
Quest, via its Microsoft WSPP license, will receive access to communications protocols that are implemented in Windows server operating systems.
These protocols are used by a Windows work group server to deliver user- and group administration services to Windows networks. Some of the group administration services include Active Directory, Windows Domain Controller and Group Policy services.
Quest specifically plans to use the protocols to develop software that will expand customers' ability to integrate Unix, Linux and Java authentication systems with Microsoft's Active Directory.
"The value of this agreement is (that) Quest is now better positioned than ever to implement truly interoperable solutions for customers that do not require them to support and maintain multiple islands of technologies and redundant processes," Doug Garn, Quest's president, said in a statement.
Microsoft also operates a protocol licensing program in the United States, where it has 27 licensees. However, U.S. antitrust authorities are also having issues with that program.
The Department of Justice expressed growing concern that Microsoft was falling behind on deadlines to revise its technical documentation to licensees, according to a joint status report released Wednesday.
That issue is likely to arise when Microsoft and the Justice Department meet Tuesday for one of their frequent status conference hearings.
One organization expressed doubts that the work group server market would benefit from the Quest-Microsoft licensing deal.
The European Committee for Interoperable Systems, which is comprised of such members as Microsoft rivals Sun Microsystems, Red Hat and Oracle, characterized the Quest announcement as "no more than (a) window dressing."
The group notes that Quest does not make work group servers or any other products that compete with Microsoft. Quest's technology, ECIS said, complements, rather than competes with, Microsoft's Windows products.