Sun Should Sue Over Dirty Tricks, not Innovation

It is not just me. Other analysts and journalists claim that what Sun is trying to achieve with their lawsuit against Microsoft is too much, and in places does not make sense at all. In this editorial, I discuss Sun’s lawsuit point by point, and evaluate how sensible (or not) it is.Sun filed 12 claims against Microsoft, including illegal maintenance of monopoly, attempted monopolization of the browser market, tying of Internet Explorer to Windows, tying Windows to Microsoft server software, tying Web server software to server operating systems, tying Microsoft’s .Net framework to the Windows desktop and server operating systems, monopolization of the office productivity software market, violation of the Cartwright Act, which is California’s version of the Sherman Antitrust Act, unfair competition, and copyright infringement. The sought damages could cost Microsoft more than $1 billion. But let’s break down the points, one by one.

Illegal maintenance of monopoly

I agree with this point. There are many instances that we know or hear that Microsoft has paid and/or NDAed companies, in order to keep its monopoly in the operating systems field. This was the point of Be, Inc. filling a lawsuit against Microsoft too and it is a 100% justifiable point.

Attempted monopolization of the browser market
Guilty as charged. According to the US law, monopoly by itself is not unlawful. Microsoft always wanted to be the No 1 company for any of the products they are shipping. In fact, that is what every company wants, including Sun. But the above statement alone will not bring Microsoft to its knees. There is nothing wrong with creating a monopoly (no matter if we, the ordinary people, like more choice), according to the law. If Sun would be able to prove that Microsoft attempted the monopolization of the browser market with dirty business practices, then (and only then) they can complain about it to the courts. And the plain fact is, IE under Windows (not under MacOS though) is the best browser today. It is stable, fast, capable, programmable, flexible and the favorite browser of any professional web developer (and I happen to be one). Why not being able to monopolize then?

Tying of Internet Explorer to Windows

This joke is not even funny anymore. The DOJ situation has been going on for years, trying to bring Microsoft down with this argument. In my (not so humble) opinion, this is absolutely laughable. Microsoft should be able to do whatever they want to their Operating System; they should be free to include IE with it, or porno, or anything else they wish. Windows is their product, and they should be free to do whatever they want with it as long as they do not use dirty business practices to bring down other competitors. People are free to choose Windows or not. Microsoft never forced any individual to buy their product.

This brings me to Linux/KDE and Konqueror. Konqueror is part of KDE, which is the major desktop environment today with more than 60% of the Linux desktop users. Konqueror is built around the KParts technology (tied to the KDE system pretty much the same way IE is to Windows), which are components used by many KDE applications at the same time. So, why don’t companies file a suit against the KDE project and all these Linux distros for bundling Konqueror? Or against Apple for bundling IE5 with MacOS? Is it because these companies and the market share they represent are not a threat yet? Well, if bundling IE was truly a crime, Apple should be in court as well, even if they only have 3% instead of 93% of the desktop market.

Tying Windows to Microsoft server and IIS software

This was the most laughable argument of all.
Sun, according to the lawsuit papers, does not like the fact that Windows 2000 and Windows XP Server Editions include IIS. Well, obviously! Sun does not want the server editions of Windows to come with Server software because Sun not only has the iPlanet Webserver of its own to sell, but also wants people to buy Sun Solaris machines for webservers, not use Windows machines. If they can throw a wrench in Microsoft’s web server strategy, it directly benefits them.

The problem is, there is a really good reason to not only bundle web server software with the “server” OS (convenience), but also to tightly integrate the webserver with the OS itself. IIS has achieved great performance benchmarks because portions of it have been moved into the kernel. Before anyone cries foul too loudly, remember that Red Hat has a webserver called TUX that’s even faster than IIS because it’s built into the Linux kernel.

Tying Microsoft’s .Net framework to the Windows desktop and server operating systems
See above. The .NET Framework would not have worked as well or as fast if it did not have operating system hooks. And we should not forget that Microsoft sees .NET as its future in the software business. And as dangerous as .NET is (because it is dangerous), It’s new enough that Microsoft has not even had time to try to abuse its monopoly power to encourage .NET adoption yet. In fact, in facing entrenched competition both from Java and established open source tools, the battle for .NET’s supremacy will probably have to be fought head on and out in the open.

Again, there are clear advantages both to ease of use and power to have .NET intimately tied to both Microsoft’s desktop and server OSes. And not just phoney advantages like browsing your hard drive through IE. Now these advantages will give Microsoft some real traction in the battle with Java (and therefore Sun) that’s gearing up. So, in conclusion, Microsoft’s monopoly will help its .NET plans, but the jury’s still out on how much, and Java is still the clear leader in that space. Again, it just smells like Sun protecting its turf.

Monopolization of the office productivity software market

Sure. And for a good reason. They have the best Office package out there, and they mostly came by their monopoly fairly, by out-maneuvering competitors like Wordperfect and Lotus years ago. Star Office is interesting and (was) free, but is not as powerful, speedy or capable as Office XP. And monopolies, achieved honestly, are not illegal.

Violation of the Cartwright Act, which is California’s version of the Sherman Antitrust Act

Quite possibly this is correct. Here is a document on understanding what the Cartwright Act is.

Unfair competition

At last, Sun got that point. And that should have been the one and only point that they should have sue Microsoft for instead of getting this childish look and argue to mom: “If I can’t have more toys, then take Microsoft’s toys away too.” I can see lots of jealousy going on at Sun. On the other hand, I can see the two companies: One that can’t make up its mind on anything while the other carries its decisions out, no matter the cost.

The other thing that is laughable is that Sun now demands that Java should be bundled with Windows! They could have just been a little more diplomatic a year ago when Microsoft was fiddling with its Java implementation. Sun’s rigidity forced Microsoft to either knuckle under or remove Java, so they removed Java. Now Sun wants to use the courts to have their cake and eat it too. You can’t have it both ways, Sun.

Here is an interesting article from
“But like other companies, Sun has been rattled by the technology slump. In its second quarter, ending in December, the company lost $431 million, compared to a $423 million profit the year before. Cutbacks in capital spending meant far slower sales of the company’s high-end computers. Last October, the company cut 3,900 jobs, the first layoffs in its history. Sun has also been spooked by the .NET Web services initiative of its hated rival, Microsoft Corp. .NET aims to make Microsoft’s software interact seamlessly over corporate networks and the Internet. If .NET becomes the standard in Web services, it undercuts Sun ONE, an alternative Web services strategy, based upon the company’s popular Java computing system. Sun is fighting back, not only by aggressively marketing Sun ONE but also by filing an antitrust suit Friday charging that Microsoft has sought to destroy Java and seeking damages that could reach $1 billion.” And another interesting analysis from the Gartner Group.

Many analysts and journalists have the same opinion on the matter. Based on this fact, I suspect that my opinions stated here are sure to generate controversy in the forums, but I stand on these opinions 100% because, I truly believe that Sun just aims too high this time. I think they aim too high not out of idealism or proven injury, but out of callous and transparent self-interest, and this invalidates any moral authority they may have had.

To be clear, I do not “hate” Microsoft out of principle, as many zealots fanatically do. I have nothing against their latest software, and I am a Windows user and I enjoy their latest software offerings. I do have a problem with the company when it comes to its business practices, but I also try to keep an open mind when it comes to their products, instead of blindly criticizing each and every move of the company.


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