UPDATE: Microsoft discloses 289 Windows APIs

Microsoft Corp. has opened key components of Windows by making 289 APIs (application programming interfaces) available for free at the Microsoft Developer Network Web site as the company takes steps to comply with the proposed antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine states.

Microsoft announced Aug. 5 that an estimated 272 APIs used by Microsoft middleware products Internet Explorer (IE), Media Player, Outlook Express, Microsoft Messenger and Microsoft Java Virtual Machine would be released Wednesday. Initially on Wednesday, Microsoft used that same figure, but after checking with company engineers the actual number of APIs made available is 289, Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said.

Release of the APIs is something Microsoft agreed to do under the proposed settlement with the DOJ and the nine states, which was reached in November and revised in February. The proposed settlement awaits a ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is expected to announce at any time whether she accepts the settlement terms or wants to impose harsher remedies.

"We were required to make these API disclosures by the time Service Pack 1 (for Windows XP) ships," Desler said. "That will ship later this summer, so we are disclosing these APIs ahead of schedule."

Microsoft also is confident that the disclosure of the 289 APIs puts the company in "complete compliance" with the settlement agreement because it requires disclosure of internal interfaces that are used in Windows by the five middleware products, Desler said.

In its Aug. 5 update on Microsoft's progress to implement portions of the settlement agreement, the company said that it would withhold only one API, a Windows file protection API that allows replacement of critical Windows assistant programs. The company said that if it were disclosed it would risk exposing users to more viruses.

The software maker also announced Aug. 5 the start of a licensing program for its internal communication protocols. The program allows third parties to create server software that is interoperable with or can communicate with Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP and future operating systems. One protocol was withheld because of a potential security vulnerability, but its functions were taken over by another protocol that has been made available for licensing, Desler said.

Microsoft has said the disclosure of the APIs and the communications protocols amounts to the release of very substantial intellectual property.

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