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August 19, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

If it didn’t have enough legal trouble already, Microsoft Corp is now being sued by cross-platform development tools company Bristol Technology, which asserts that the software giant has denied it access to Windows source code in violation of antitrust laws. Bristol, which provides tools that allow Windows applications to run on other operating systems – most notably Unix – said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that Microsoft is practicing anti-competitive behavior through predatory manipulation of the access to the information that is the source of its monopoly power: the Windows programming interfaces. The suit demands unspecified monetary damages and injunctive relief which would require Microsoft to provide Bristol with source code for future versions of Windows operating systems, including Windows NT versions 4 and 5. Bristol, founded in 1991, has had access to the source code for Windows since 1994 after it was approached by Microsoft, which convinced it to license the technology. But that was at a time when NT was a nascent platform with virtually no market share and Microsoft was looking to make an inroads in the Unix market, points out Jean Blackwell, co- founder and senior vice-president at Bristol. Blackwell said that for a few years her company enjoyed a great relationship with Microsoft, which featured joint marketing efforts and trade show appearances as well as promises from Bill Gates himself to developers that they could count on the relationship between the two companies going forward. Now Bristol claims that it has been trying to renew its deal with Redmond for over a year and Microsoft refuses to play ball. Blackwell said the company is only willing to offer what amounts to an oppressive and unreasonable licensing deal – one which would carve up the source code and offer only certain pieces to Bristol. The price for a new deal was also being hiked 400%, according to Blackwell, and Microsoft had even proposed limits on who Bristol could sell to. Blackwell likens Bristol’s products to a bridge from Windows to other operating systems and said that Microsoft, in offering only partial access to its source code, is putting holes in that bridge. She points out that customer confidence in the company’s product will disappear if Bristol were forced to work with only what Microsoft is willing to give it. Thus, Blackwell insists that, despite any misgivings Bristol may have had about legal action, the suit was necessary. That is not to say the company doesn’t think it can prevail against the software behemoth. Bristol has hired a top-notch legal team which believes it has a classic antitrust case on its hands – with issues strikingly similar to those in the Federal Trade Commission’s case against Intel Corp. The company intends to pursue the case to the end. We just want them [Microsoft] to do the right thing and live up to their commitment, Blackwell said.

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