Microsoft's Non-Compete API License
by Robert Cooper
"Microsoft has recently announced a new licensing program for the Office 2007 user interface. This page links to the license and an MSDN Channel9 interview about the program (featuring a lawyer). The program 'allows virtually anyone to obtain a royalty-free license to use the new Office UI in a software product. There's only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.'
Which, was followed up with: "What does this mean for OpenOffice?"
I don't think that matters much, frankly. OO.o isn't going to use the Office UI APIs directly anyway, for what I would think are obvious reasons. What I am curious about is what qualifies as "compete"? Does ACT! "compete" with Outlook? Does Quicken compete with Excel? Does Grandma's Recipe Software compete with Access? Does Dreamweaver compete with Word? The reason for the success of Office is the software included is very generic and in a lot of ways is a representative of the primary functions of a computer in general -- Data Storage, Calculations, Communications, Visualization/Presentation.
The other thing, as a bit of an aside, that I find funny is Microsoft spinning wildly in the opposite direction of their arguments during the MSIE antitrust trial: Browsers and Email clients are a "fundamental" part of the operating system, but now UI API's are part of Office and licensed separately. The FAQ's business about "protecting their investment" is almost comical, since MIcrosoft's biggest asset is the fact that everyone else's software is closely coupled to their APIs anyway. The implication that still more coupling would be bad for their business is interesting.
"Compete" almost always means a product that does the same thing.
So granny's recipe program isn't a competitor for MS Access but your database frontend that talks to an embedded personal Oracle is.
So what happens when your application that uses the UI-API has a nice market niche that MS suddenly wants to get into?