Microsoft will make available the preliminary versions of technical documentation for the protocols built into Microsoft Office 2007, SharePoint Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.
This documentation, which defines how these high-volume Microsoft products communicate with some of its other products, is 14,000 pages and is in addition to the 30,000 pages posted when the software giant first introduced its new Interoperability Principles last month. They will be made available April 8.
“There have been more than 100,000 downloads of the first 30,000-page documentation set posted on MSDN [Microsoft Developer Network],” Tom Robertson, Microsoft’s general manager for Interoperability and Standards, told eWEEK.
The preliminary versions of the new documentation, which will also be posted to MSDN, contain the protocols between SharePoint Server 2007 and Office client applications; SharePoint Server 2007 and other Microsoft server products; Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook; and Office 2007 client applications and other Microsoft server products.
While everyone will have access to this protocol documentation without having to sign a license or pay a royalty or other fee, there is a catch: Those protocols covered by a Microsoft patent will have to be licensed if they will be commercially distributed.
However, the software company has pledged to make patent licenses available on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and at low royalty rates, Robertson said.
In June, Microsoft will also publish a list of the protocols that are covered by patents, and will make available a patent map containing a list of the specific Microsoft patents and patent applications that cover each protocol, when the final version of the protocols are available, Robertson said.
The company will also release the final patent pricing and licensing terms at that time. “As we work over the coming months on feedback on the protocols themselves, we are also going to be completing the patent map for each of these protocols,” Robertson said.
Open-Source Developers Covered
Open-source developers will be covered by Microsoft’s Patent Pledge for Open Source, even before the documentation is final and the patent pricing is complete, as the preliminary specifications published April 8 are automatically covered by this pledge. That pledge will also cover the final versions of the documentation when published.
“When the protocols are completed in June and we share the patent map and licensing structure for each of these, that will give developers and customers clarity,” Robertson said. “This is another step in ensuring open connections to our high-volume products.”
Microsoft is releasing preliminary versions of the documentation to get the information out, and to provide the opportunity for feedback from the community in those areas where it might not be meeting their needs or might be incomplete, Robertson said.
The overall response to the first 30,000 pages of documentation was positive, Robertson said. However, he acknowledged that some people are reserving judgment until they see how the principles are implemented. “We completely understand that and will continue to take additional steps going forward to get the protocol and API documentation as good as it can be,” he said.
However, Microsoft competitors in the open-source community have responded with skepticism to news of the software vendor’s commitment to greater openness and interoperability.
Michael Cunningham, general counsel for Linux vendor Red Hat, said it was not surprising to hear Microsoft finally state that interoperability across systems is an important requirement and that it is changing its approach on that front.
Microsoft has also denied that its commitment to greater interoperability and openness was a result of pressure from the European Commission, though many remain unconvinced.
Jean Paoli, general manager for interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft, told eWEEK that the technical documentation will be used by both those people-adding value to Microsoft products as well as those with competing products.