Microsoft has announced that it will cut the cost and ease restrictions for software makers who license certain Windows protocols to make their products work better with the operating system.

Revised licensing terms for the Windows communications protocols will be published later this week, probably tomorrow, Microsoft spokesman Matt Pilla said. The revision is part of Microsoft's antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

The new license terms are simpler, provide lower initial costs and will eliminate a previously required nondisclosure agreement, Microsoft said in a statement.

As part of its landmark antitrust settlement, Microsoft agreed to make its communications protocols available to third parties on "reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms". The software company started licensing the protocols in August last year, but is now revising the licensing terms in response to comments from the DOJ and licensees, Pilla said.

The Windows communications protocols allow other software products to communicate better with Windows. Microsoft currently has a handful of licensees, typically companies that are building server offerings and want them to interoperate better with Windows.

The license changes will not be the last. For example, Microsoft "in the near term" plans to offer a 50 percent refund option. This would mean that companies which purchase rights to use the protocols and then within a year decide not to use them will be entitled to a 50 percent refund.

Microsoft and the DOJ also are still examining the royalties charged for the protocols, according to Microsoft. In a statement issued yesterday, the DOJ said it would evaluate the royalties over the next few weeks.