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Executive Editor, News

Sun to face Microsoft on antitrust case

Dec 02, 20024 mins

Microsoft and Sun are scheduled to face off in a Baltimore federal court Tuesday morning to present arguments on whether Microsoft should be forced to distribute a Sun-authorized version of Java with the Windows operating system.

The arguments are part of pretrial motions in Sun’s private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. Sun is asking the court for a preliminary injunction on the Java issue, in effect asking U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz to require Microsoft to distribute Sun’s own Java plug-in for Windows XP with every copy of Windows and Internet Explorer, pending the final outcome of the lawsuit.

Sun filed its lawsuit in March, charging that Microsoft used its monopoly in PC operating systems to thwart acceptance of Java.

Though Sun filed its suit in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., the venue for the trial has been moved to Baltimore, under Motz, who is coordinating and presiding over a number of private antitrust cases as well as numerous class-action lawsuits that have been filed against Microsoft.

In its pretrial motions, Sun argues that Microsoft has attempted to fragment the Java platform by distributing its own Virtual Machine for Java, which is incompatible with Sun’s Java development products.

However, Microsoft points out that in last month’s ruling on remedies in the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck down a similar request to include Java with Windows. Nine states and the District of Columbia were pressing for harsher remedies than the terms of a settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice. Kollar-Kotelly issued a ruling on remedies that largely accepted the settlement’s terms.

Kollar-Kotelly rejected the Java remedy as “not good for competition, and consequently, not good for consumers,” said Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman. “It gives a court-sanctioned, specific advantage to Sun, and there are other Java virtual machines out there. Not only does it circumvent competition with Microsoft, but it circumvents competition with other companies.”

However, District Court rulings in the government’s case might work against Microsoft. Motz has already indicated that private plaintiffs may use some of the findings in the U.S. case for their lawsuits. One of the findings in the U.S. case was that Microsoft is a monopoly that used its power to thwart competition.

In addition, two of the holdout states, Massachusetts and West Virginia, are appealing Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling. Massachusetts Friday said it would appeal, and West Virginia Monday said it would join Massachusetts. The deadline for filing an appeal in the U.S. case was Monday.

The hearing in front of Motz this week is expected to continue through Thursday. Both sides are slated to present opening arguments Tuesday, then call witnesses, and present summations Thursday.

Sun said its witnesses will be Rich Green, a Sun vice president; Rick Ross, Javalobby founder and president; and Dennis Carlton, an economist.

Microsoft said its witnesses will be Chris Jones, vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Client Group; Andrew Layman, director of the company’s XML Web services standards; Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Platform Strategy Group; and Kevin Murphy, an economist.

The Sun case and other private cases are not expected to go to trial until the latter half of 2003, according to Desler. The other private lawsuits under Motz are those filed by Be, AOL Time Warner, which owns Netscape, and The companies seek billions of dollars in damages and a variety of remedies rejected by Kollar-Kotelly, including, for example, the unbundling of the Internet Explorer Web browser from Windows.

Additional reporting by Grant Gross of the IDG News Service.