Microsoft, whose software uses maximum percent of the world's personal computers,considering the demand of time, reached an agreement on licensing terms that will allow open-source products to connect to the Windows operating system.
Microsoft will license proprietary information on how Windows shares files and printers with the non-profit Protocol Freedom Information Foundation, which will make the data available to open-source developers working on a file and printing system called Samba.
The agreement will "allow Samba to create, use and distribute implementations of all the protocols" to allow so- called workgroup servers to connect with Windows, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said in a statement Thursday.
Microsoft .The accord furthers Microsoft's bid to resolve legal disputes worldwide that have been weighing on its shares. The company in October gave in to European Union demands to license the protocol data.
In the past, Microsoft refused to license its technology to open-source software makers. Programs such as the free operating system Linux and the Samba system are distributed under terms requiring access to the source code, or underlying operating instructions.
Samba said in a statement that the agreement involves a one-time fee of 10,000 euros ($14,350). The protocol data will be held "in confidence" by Samba. The agreement allows source code to be published "without further restrictions," Samba said.
Under a 2004 EU decision, Microsoft had to disclose.
In a landmark ruling against Microsoft’s anti-trust policy, the European Union forced Microsoft in October to share information concerning work group server operating systems with open-source developers. The first beneficiaries are the devs grouped under the Samba label.
According to the official Web-page, Samba is “software that can be run on a platform other than Microsoft Windows, for example, UNIX, Linux, IBM System 390, OpenVMS, and other operating systems. Samba uses the TCP/IP protocol that is installed on the host server. When correctly configured, it allows that host to interact with a Microsoft Windows client or server as if it is a Windows file and print server.”
So basically what Samba does is to provide interoperability between closed-source servers (Windows) and open-source ones. Samba debuted back in 1992 and since then it has grown into a popular, community-supported alternative to other SMB/CIFS implementations.
However, interoperability with Windows servers was often hindered by Microsoft’s protocol formats modifications operated in its proprietary code. Moreover, Samba was at risk of being sued by the Redmond behemoth for infringing the latter’s patents, because Samba translates data from different formats into Windows-compatible formats.
Initially, the company which now dominates the PC and server operating systems market (with 95% and 70% market share respectively) had refused to make any patent license compatible with the open source business model and demanded a royalty rate of 5.95 % of revenues for a combination of access to the secret interoperability information and for a patent license.
Following EU’s October 2007 decision to uphold a 2004 court ruling forcing Microsoft to become more “interoperability-friendly”, the Redmond giant agreed to three substantial changes:
1. First, ‘open source’ software developers will be able to access and use the interoperability information.
2. Second, the royalties payable for this information will be reduced to a nominal one-off payment of €10 000.
3. Third, the royalties for a worldwide license including patents will be reduced from 5.95% to 0.4% - less than 7% of the royalty originally claimed. In these agreements between third party developers and Microsoft, Microsoft will guarantee the completeness and accuracy of the information provided.
However, in the recent agreement with a group that represents Samba (the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation, located in Delaware), Microsoft will get €15,000 for the necessary documentation. The agreement was mediated by Samba’s original developer, Andrew Tridgell (now working for Google) and Eben Moglen, one of the iconic figures of the open source movement and head of the Software Freedom Law Center.
"The agreement allows us to keep Samba up to date with recent changes in Microsoft Windows, and also helps other Free Software projects that need to interoperate with Windows," said Andrew Tridgell
It is important to underline that the recent deal doesn’t exactly mean that Microsoft will “open source” its code. It merely ensures that the Samba community will get access to vital information about how Windows shares files and printers, but that information will be held “in confidence”.