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Microsoft Releases The RDP Specifications To The Public

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Have you ever wanted to know how Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) works on the inside? Well now you can. Microsoft has just made the specifications of RDP freely available for download, all 30,000 pages of it. This move by Microsoft has even been reported at The New York Times and CNN. From The New York Times:

Seeking to satisfy European antitrust officials, Microsoft said on Thursday that it would open up and share many more of its technical secrets with the rest of the software industry and competitors.

Microsoft executives, in a conference call, characterized the announcement as a “strategic shift” in the company’s business practices and its handling of technical information. They also portrayed the moves as only partly a nod to the continuing challenge Microsoft faces from Europe’s antitrust regulators.

The broader goal, they said, is to bring Microsoft’s flagship personal computer products — the Windows operating system and Office productivity programs — further into the Internet era of computing. Increasingly, people want a seamless flow of documents, data and programming code among desktop PCs and the Internet, especially as they make the shift from using software on a PC to using services on the Web.

“These steps are being taken on our own,” said Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive. The move, he said, was a recognition of Microsoft’s “unique legal situation,” but it was also the company’s effort to adapt to “the opportunities and risks of a more connected, more services-oriented world.”

Microsoft’s first step will be to put on its Web site 30,000 pages of technical documentation detailing how its Windows desktop and Microsoft server programs communicate and share information. Until now, that information was treated as a trade secret and was available only under a special license.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, said that by sharing more information, Microsoft would make it easier for others to write Internet programs that tap into personal information on a PC.

That, Mr. Ozzie added, should bring new sets of Web services that, for example, might match a person’s calendar information with a doctor’s schedule. Then smart software could make an appointment. At home, he noted, someone’s digital collection of music, movies and family photos would be more easily shuffled to different devices and screens

If you want to download the zipped PDFs you can find them at:
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc240445.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc240933.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc241066.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc241215.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc241305.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc241537.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc241880.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242017.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242116.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242231.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242359.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242568.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242596.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242856.aspx
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc242947.aspx
Just be warned – it’s 192MB!

Update: Microsoft provides some more interesting information about this move in this Press Release:

  • As an immediate next step, starting today Microsoft will openly publish on MSDN over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols that were previously available only under a trade secret license through the Microsoft Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) and the Microsoft Communication Protocol Program (MCPP). Protocol documentation for additional products, such as Office 2007 and all of the other high-volume products covered by these principles, will be published in the upcoming months.
  • Microsoft will indicate on its Web site which protocols are covered by Microsoft patents and will license all of these patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, at low royalty rates. To assist those interested in considering a patent license, Microsoft will make available a list of specific Microsoft patents and patent applications that cover each protocol.
  • Microsoft is providing a covenant not to sue open source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols. These developers will be able to use the documentation for free to develop products. Companies that engage in commercial distribution of these protocol implementations will be able to obtain a patent license from Microsoft, as will enterprises that obtain these implementations from a distributor that does not have such a patent license.

This is great news for the rdesktop project and its users, and indeed for the entire remote-access industry. Kudos to Microsoft!

Profile:
Dan Shappir is responsible for all aspects of product design, software development and maintenance of the Ericom's product lines. Mr. Shappir joined Ericom in 2001 and brings over 15 years experience in computer programming, and in the design and architecture of software products. Mr. Shappir holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and an M.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from Tel Aviv University, Israel. | Ericom Software
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