MS/DOJ - Sun Eyes Private Antitrust Suit Against Microsoft

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's conclusions of law released Monday determined that Microsoft had broken a number of federal and U.S. state antitrust laws and also mentioned the company's misconduct in relation to Sun's Java technology.

"The company is obligated to look at the possibility" of filing a private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in the wake of the judge's verdict, a Sun spokeswoman said today, confirming earlier reported remarks by Sun General Counsel Mike Morris.

However, the Sun spokeswoman stressed that the company still has a long way to go before deciding on a specific course of action.

"We may decide to do nothing, we don't know what course of action we may take, if any," she said in a phone interview today. "We will study the judge's ruling carefully and thoughtfully" -- a process may take some time, the Sun spokeswoman added.

Already deeply embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit that alleges that Microsoft violated a licensing agreement for Sun's Java technology, Sun was quick to respond positively to Judge Jackson's Monday ruling. In a statement issued late Monday, Sun again urged for the breakup of Microsoft into three separate companies as a way to create a more competitive software industry environment. [See "Sun Gives Judge's MS Ruling a Big Hand," April 4.]Sun also has a strong strategic alliance with America Online Inc.'s Netscape Communications Corp. unit, whose Navigator Web browser lost out to Microsoft's rival Internet Explorer (IE) product in part due to Microsoft's alleged tying of IE to its operating system.

Microsoft's efforts "succeeded in preventing -- for several years, and perhaps permanently -- (Netscape's) Navigator and Java from fulfilling their potential to open the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems to competition on the merits," Jackson wrote in his conclusions of law.

"As part of its grand strategy to protect the applications barrier, Microsoft employed an array of tactics designed to maximize the difficulty with which applications written in Java could be ported from Windows to other platforms, and vice versa."

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Clare Haney

PC World

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