Judge denies 2 Microsoft motions, considers third


Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 12:45 a.m.

BALTIMORE (AP) - A federal judge refused Friday to drop antitrust claims that Microsoft Corp. used its might to squeeze out an alternative to its Windows operating system as well as technology for streaming video online.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz said he found "sufficient allegations" to warrant allowing lawsuits by Burst.com and defunct software maker Be Inc. to proceed.

Another company, Sun Microsystems, was also trying to persuade Motz on Friday to let its case go forward. Already, Motz has approved Sun's request to require that Windows include Sun's latest Java programming language pending resolution of the lawsuit.

These private antitrust lawsuits are separate from a case filed by the Justice Department and 18 states. In that lawsuit, another federal judge found that Microsoft acted as an illegal monopoly based on its dominance in desktop operating systems. Microsoft ultimately settled, although two states are still appealing.

Microsoft sought to dismiss five claims filed by Burst.com, a Santa Rosa, Calif., company that makes technology for streaming movies and sounds.

Burst.com attorney Spencer Hosie argues that by developing its own streaming technology, known as Windows Media Player, Microsoft "essentially muscled all the other competitors aside, and seized it for itself."

Meanwhile, Be alleges that Microsoft pressured computer manufacturers such as Compaq and Dell not to install Be's rival BeOS operating system, which would have allowed buyers to easily switch back and forth between BeOS and Windows.

As a result, Be had difficulties competing, Be attorney Stephen Susman said.

Attorneys for Burst.com, Be and Sun presented a range of arguments to support their lawsuits, prompting Microsoft attorney David Tulchin to remark: "I mean, they're all over the place - many legal issues that, in a sense, I suppose you'd say are fairly technical."

Responding specifically to Be's complaints, Microsoft argued that there were other ways to enter the market, such as by distributing disks or offering downloads over the Internet.

But Susman said few customers would want to go through those hurdles. "That is not an effective way to reach consumers," he said.

Be has since sold most of its assets to Palm Inc.

Friday's hearing came less than a month after Motz said he would order Microsoft to include an updated version of Sun's Java software in Windows. Motz has given Sun and Microsoft 90 days to meet with him and work out details before a formal order is issued. It would be in effect while Sun presses its $1 billion antitrust suit claiming Microsoft used its monopoly to hurt Java.

Tulchin said Microsoft would appeal the order once issued, something he said could come as early as next week.

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