Way back in December 1998, Sun Microsystems lodged a complaint against Microsoft, claiming that Microsoft refused to supply the necessary information for Sun Solaris to interoperate with Windows. After an intensive investigation, in March 2004 the European Commission finally ordered Microsoft to disclose interface documentation that would let third-party vendors achieve full interoperability with Windows. As of June 2006, the Commission concluded that Microsoft still hadn’t complied with this obligation, and subsequently fined the company $357 million. Now, the Commission is objecting to Microsoft’s plan to charge for licensing its interoperability protocols. On March 1, the European Union (EU) threatened to fine Microsoft over these technology licensing fees.

            Still, Microsoft is moving forward with the Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) that the company established after the European Commission’s March 2004 decision. On March 8, Quest Software (http://www.quest.com) announced that Microsoft has granted the company the first license in the WSPP. According to Quest, “the agreement to license Microsoft’s protocol technology will allow \[the company\] to expand upon its innovative interoperability solutions for customers working across heterogeneous server environments, such as UNIX and Linux.” And Bob Muglia, Microsoft senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business (STB), says this announcement “represents a significant milestone for the WSPP and demonstrates the momentum we are seeing in the industry around platform interoperability.” According to Quest’s press release, “the agreement to license Microsoft’s protocol technology will extend and enrich interoperability capabilities for customers working across heterogeneous server environments. Quest plans to develop innovative software solutions, incorporating Microsoft protocols, which will provide customers with expanded capability to integrate Unix, Linux, and Java authentication systems with Active Directory beyond what is available from Quest today.”

            Although Microsoft’s US licensing program has 27 licensees, Quest is the first company to obtain a license through the European program. Dave Wilson, vice president of interoperability at Quest, explains why Quest opted to participate in the European program: “The European program and the US program are two separate and different licensing programs, with different government bodies. The European program is more 'server-related,' and the US program more 'client-related.'  While Quest is a part of both, the team at Quest that worked with Microsoft on this agreement (AD and IdM) is more closely aligned with the server area that this European licensing agreement is about."