Responding to criticism of its antitrust settlement with the US government, Microsoft for the second time in 30 days agreed to US Department of Justice (DOJ)-suggested changes to the agreement. The first change involved a minor modification of the Windows XP Start menu's Set Program Access and Defaults icon that will let users more easily choose a default Web browser other than Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). The more recent change stipulates that Microsoft will drop secrecy requirements that would have applied to companies that want to see Windows communications technology source code. Microsoft also will lower the cost of licensing that technology, which it was forced to share under terms of the settlement. A Microsoft spokesperson says the company agreed to the changes after the DOJ and other antitrust enforcement agencies recommended them. The company will publish revised Windows licensing terms--which are simpler and less expensive than those they replace--as early as Wednesday this week, the spokesperson said.
As part of its historic antitrust settlement with the US government, Microsoft agreed to license its communications protocols to third parties under "reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms." However, companies that have attempted to license the technology have complained that the fees are too high and that Microsoft requires them to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before it will even agree to license the code. So far, only three companies have signed a license. After a meeting 2 months ago with representatives from Sun Microsystems--which signed the NDA but refused to license the technology because of the high fees--the DOJ approached Microsoft about making the licensing changes.
These changes will not be the last, Microsoft admits. In the near future, the company will also offer a 50 percent refund to companies that license the technology but don't use it within a year.