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Bristol gets Sun's support in suit against Microsoft (1998)

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Boston (October 5, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. has filed a court brief supporting the claims of Bristol Technology Inc. in its federal lawsuit alleging anticompetitive behavior on the part of Microsoft Corp.

The Sun statement, filed Sept. 24 in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut -- Bristol's home state -- says that "because Microsoft keeps their (operating system) implementation secret, only Microsoft applications can take advantage of the capabilities that make applications useful or faster running." The statement is from Brian Croll, Sun's director of Solaris product marketing.

Also in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall has set Oct. 14, 15, and 19 as hearing dates for Bristol's motion for preliminary injunction, which seeks to force Microsoft to provide the full Windows operating system source code that Bristol says it needs to continue developing its products.

Bristol today filed a response to Microsoft's response regarding the preliminary injunction. The Bristol response reiterates the company's position and urges the court to look at Microsoft's monopoly share of the operating systems market and not just its workstation and server market share. Microsoft contends the judge should look only at the workstation and server markets.

Bristol sued Microsoft in August, charging that the software maker is illegally using its operating system monopoly to undermine the Unix market with dire consequences for the computer industry and Bristol in particular. Bristol provides cross-platform development tools allowing Windows applications to run on other operating systems. Wind/U, its flagship product, was designed to allow companies to port applications from Windows to Unix.

Bristol contends in its lawsuit that Microsoft is trying to push the small software firm out of the market by ceasing to provide Bristol with the complete source code for Windows operating systems. Moreover, Microsoft has recently bolstered its relationships with Bristol competitors, and, unbeknownst to Bristol changed its strategy regarding Unix because of widespread acceptance of the Windows NT platform, the lawsuit alleges.

"Obviously, for our customers, they know that Bristol has reliance on Microsoft's source code and technology, so the effect this has before a preliminary injunction is basically to freeze the market," Keith Blackwell, Bristol president said in an interview today.

He estimated that Bristol has as many as 20 clients who are waiting for a decision regarding the preliminary injunction before proceeding to take products to market.

"It's not good for them or us," Blackwell said of the current situation, which finds Bristol stymied in its attempts to develop products.

Now that Bristol has had access to Microsoft documents during the discovery process, where evidence is revealed, the company is even more certain of victory, he said.

"I think that everything we thought was happening was happening," Blackwell said.

Specifically, Bristol alleges that Microsoft lured Unix software developers to the Windows programming interface with the pledge that the latest Windows NT source code would be made available to third-party vendors like Bristol. Microsoft used its Windows source code licensing program as a "Trojan horse" to ensnare trusting developers only to shut out Bristol and restrict applications for Unix.

Sun is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Microsoft regarding the licensing of the Java programming language. The U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general also have filed a broad antitrust suit against Microsoft, specifically targeting the software giant's alleged attempts to control the Internet browser market. That case is set for trial on Oct. 15.