In what could be a flashback, concern about undocumented APIs in Windows 2000 are beginning to surface.
Microsoft Corp.'s own application developers can count on unlimited access to Windows 2000 API layers, while competitors and outside ISVs could be locked out, analysts and observers said.
"I suspect they're trying to cut down on the number of undocumented APIs, but they still do it," said Dan Kusnetzky, analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. "Most people view Microsoft as trying to own the [operating system] and applications market. But what they want is to own is the APIs through which all the functions are done."
Developers accept that Microsoft publishes only a subset of its native NT API,the Win32 API set,to protect its source code. And several of them, including Novell Inc. and Symantec Corp., said Microsoft has published several new and in-depth APIs and API layers such as Active Directory Service Interface (ADSI) 2.5, Terminal Server API and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) API.
But others fear that an increasing number of unpublished APIs could put Microsoft competitors, and sometimes partners, at a disadvantage in the server market.
With Office owning 90 percent of the desktop applications market, Microsoft may try to leverage its Windows hegemony and API layers to gain ownership of the BackOffice space and crush server competitors like Oracle Corp., much as it did Lotus Development Corp. and Corel Corp. on the desktop, some analysts said.
They said Microsoft could ship new server applications that might use hooks that are not unavailable to outside developers.
"We know of some APIs they're not publishing and we're concerned, especially as we move our products in the future," said one developer at Symantec, Cupertino, Calif. "We know there are some undocumented APIs on the Active Directory and encrypted file system, and we need those hooks for our future products."
Microsoft could not be reached for comment.
Novell, Microsoft's competitor in directories and groupware, said its rival has shown improvement in the number and depth of APIs published.
But Novell already encountered several undocumented APIs in Windows 2000, one reason the Provo, Utah-based company is waiting to fully develop NDS for Windows 2000. "We are developing now with what we know, but we have no date yet. The issue is how far we can get with their public APIs," said Brian Faustyn, director of product marketing at Novell.
Fast Lane Technologies Inc. recently battled Microsoft over an undocumented API, DSADDS10 History, which is part of NT DS API,and won.
"Initially, they didn't want to publish it, but we applied pressure and they gave it up," said Doug Davis, a senior product engineer at the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based company.
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