• United States
by Matt Berger

Sun, Microsoft await ruling on injunction

Dec 06, 20024 mins

A federal district court judge Thursday heard closing arguments in a preliminary phase of a private antitrust case in which Sun is suing Microsoft, ending three days of testimony in a case that ultimately could affect the distribution of Sun’s Java technology.

Sun is asking the Baltimore court for a preliminary injunction to keep Microsoft from distributing the Java technology it ships with Windows and force it instead to ship a Sun-authorized version with the operating system and the Internet Explorer Web browser. It argues that Microsoft is scuttling the success of Java by shipping outdated technology with its products.

Java is a programming language developed by Sun and widely used by developers to build applications that can run on various operating systems and computing devices ranging from cell phones to large servers.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz, who is presiding over the case, said Thursday he would attempt to make a decision on the preliminary injunction within the next 10 days, though it could take longer, representatives of Sun and Microsoft said.

The hearing on Sun’s request for a preliminary injunction included testimony from company executives, industry experts and economists representing both parties.

Sun charges that Microsoft used its desktop operating system monopoly to hinder the success of Java. Microsoft uses older versions of Java technology in its products and has said it will stop shipping Java all together in future releases of Windows. Users then would have to download a Java virtual machine themselves.

Sun called on executives and University of Chicago economist Dennis Carlton to testify earlier this week. Carlton suggested that forcing Microsoft to use Sun’s Java technology would ensure competition in the emerging Web services development market. Microsoft is developing its own Web services technology based on its .Net initiative, which has emerged as the top competitor to Java.

Lawyers for Microsoft, meanwhile, have attempted to prove that any failure of Java is Sun’s own doing, calling on its own technology and economic experts.

Microsoft also is relying on the now-settled federal antitrust suit against Microsoft. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a similar request to force Microsoft to ship its products with Sun-backed Java support on grounds that it would not be a benefit for competition.

“This remedy is unwarranted, it would be unprecedented and is unsupported by the law,” said Jim Desler, Microsoft’s legal spokesman, in a phone interview from Baltimore Thursday. “The burden was on Sun to provide evidence, and we don’t believe they provided the necessary evidence.”

In addition to getting its Java technology into Windows, Sun is seeking a broader set of remedies as part of its private antitrust suit, which is still in the throes of getting under way. It has asked for monetary damages and a permanent injunction that would require Microsoft to license to other companies certain proprietary software interfaces. It also would require Microsoft to “unbundle” products from its operating system, such as Internet Explorer and the Internet Information Server Web server.

Rob Enderle, research director with Giga Information Group, cautioned Thursday that Sun may be overreaching in its legal pursuit. He cited comments that Motz made during hearings on Wednesday, in which the judge said Sun might be better off focusing its efforts on Java and abandoning its other demands.

“If you over-ask you really run the risk that the judge is going to consider you unreasonable,” Enderle said of Sun.

Sun brought its antitrust suit against Microsoft in March in a San Jose, federal court. The case was transferred to Baltimore under Motz along with separate private antitrust suits filed by AOL Time Warner’s Netscape division, as well as the former operating system maker Be and software vendor

All those cases have been consolidated under Motz in addition to a collection of class-action lawsuits filed by consumer plaintiffs against Microsoft.