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Microsoft Flirts with Charging for API Software Connections

Microsoft may have started something new by attempting to charge its customers for software that uses its application programming interfaces (APIs).

Microsoft's APIs are used by partner companies and independent software vendors to connect their software solutions to Microsoft's software. The prospect that it may be an extra licensing cost for organizations to use third-party software solutions that connect with Microsoft's products may be an emerging trend.

This notion was unearthed by Tom Arbuthnot, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, in an October blog post. He noted that Microsoft had started to charge for the use of its APIs in an Advanced Communications add-on product to Microsoft Teams. The charges were part of the preview version described in July, he indicated. Back then, Microsoft had proposed including the use of a Recording API and a Contact Center API in the cost of the Advanced Communications add-on product.

However, such details weren't described when Microsoft released the Advanced Communications product in August. Nothing was said about the Recording and Contact Center APIs, which had been dropped from the product's description.

API Costs Included in Microsoft 365 Plans
It turns out that Microsoft quietly included support for those two APIs in certain Microsoft 365 E3/E5 plans at no additional cost. However, it hasn't wholly backed away from the notion of charging its customers for API use in the future.

Here's how a Microsoft spokesperson expressed it, when asked about these API plans:

The Compliance Recording API and Contact Center API were briefly available as part of the Advanced Communications plan, but were recently made available instead as part of Microsoft 365 Business Premium/A3/A5/E3/E5 and Office 365 A3/A5/E3/E5 at no additional charge. Microsoft 365 APIs have typically been included as part of a customer's user subscription licenses (USL). We don't have anything to share on future licensing for API access.

Advanced Communications will be bringing the ability for Teams users to conduct very large meetings (up to 20,000 attendees in view-only mode), add company branding to videoconferencing sessions and track user stats during Teams sessions. However, not all of those feature are available yet. The August product release just has support for "up to 20,000 participants, 50 concurrent events, [and] event duration of 16 hours per broadcast," a Microsoft document, dated Nov. 17, explained.

To get these capabilities, organizations need to subscribe to a Microsoft 365 plan that includes Teams and then purchase the Advanced Communications add-on. The add-on is priced at $12 per user per month, but that cost just applies to meeting organizers, not to attendees, the document explained:

Advanced Communications is $12 per user/month. Keep in mind that only meeting organizers need a license. Meeting attendees don't need a license.

More API Charging To Come?
Possibly, a trend may have been set in motion. Microsoft may be planning to charge its customers in the future if they want to use non-Microsoft software with Microsoft solutions such as Teams.

"It's interesting to see Microsoft starting to monetise specific features and maybe certain API access, requiring additional licences beyond E5," Arbuthnot commented in his blog post.

There are other instances where Microsoft has suggested that it may impose charges for API use. Arbuthnot noted that the Microsoft Teams Export API already includes a description stating that "in the future, Microsoft may require you or your customers to pay additional fees based on the amount of data accessed through the API."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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