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Microsoft licensing tiff

Jan 13, 20032 mins
Data Center

Microsoft’s creating a minor controversy with its new licensing program. No, not the one over its corporate licensing scheme. This one has to do with its newly announced licensing for Windows Media technology on non-Windows platforms. It seems as if the MPEG-4 patent holders — there are 18 of them — think Microsoft is hurting the competition by offering its technology license at a lower price. Microsoft is charging 10 cents for the decoder and 20 cents for the encoder or 25 cents for both, while MPEG-4 is priced at 25 cents per encoder and decoder with no discount for buying both.

The MPEG-4 folks claim people want standards (i.e. MPEG-4) when it comes to streaming media, not proprietary standards such as those peddled by Microsoft. Personally, I think it’s sour grapes on the part of the MPEG-4 consortium. Real charges a similar price as Microsoft, but does not get the same criticism (it supports MPEG-4 in its product.) As for the standards argument, yes, it’s great if everything is interoperable. But if Microsoft’s (or Real’s or Apple’s) technology is used by everyone, isn’t it a de facto standard? If I am a device manufacturer looking to shave a few cents off development and manufacturing, I’d go with the cheaper license.