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FAQ: Sun's suit against Microsoft

What are the details of the private antitrust suit, and what is Sun seeking? The answers to these questions can help clarify the case and what will happen next.

Sun Microsystems on Friday filed a private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, seeking $1 billion in damages over the software giant's handling of its Java software. This list of questions and answers can help clarify Sun's case and what will happen next.

What is Sun claiming?
The company claims that Microsoft "engaged in illegal monopolization and/or monopoly maintenance" of the Intel-compatible PC operating system market, the browser market and the productivity suite market in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

Sun also charges Microsoft with attempting to illegally monopolize the workgroup server operating system market.

Does the suit raise the issue of tying various products to the operating system?
Yes, it claims that Microsoft violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by tying:

• The Internet Explorer browser to the Windows OS

• Windows workgroup server operating systems (Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional) to its PC operating systems

• The IIS Web server to its workgroup server operating system (Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server)

• The .Net framework to its PC and workgroup operating systems

What about distribution agreements?
Sun claims that Microsoft "entered into exclusive dealing and exclusionary agreements" with Apple Computer and Intel to refrain from developing and distributing "a non-Microsoft compatible implementation of the Java platform."

Is the suit limited to antitrust issues?
No, it also claims that Microsoft violated federal copyright laws and broke two California laws: trade restraint and unfair competition.

What does Sun want through this lawsuit?
Sun is seeking preliminary injunctions requiring Microsoft to include the most current Java plug-in with Windows XP and Internet Explorer. The company also wants to "stop the unlicensed distribution of Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine through separate Web downloads, instead of incorporating within Windows XP and Internet Explorer."

Perhaps more importantly, Sun is asking the court to require Microsoft to "disclose and license proprietary interfaces, protocols and formats" and to "unbundle" products such as Internet Explorer, IIS and the .Net framework.

What is Java?
Java software, created by Sun Microsystems, lets programs run on many types of computers without having to be modified for each one.

Why would this software be a competitive threat to Microsoft?
Programmers may choose to write software geared to run on Java, and by extension on a wide array of hardware, rather than on Windows.

What is Microsoft's .Net?
Microsoft's .Net is a development architecture and product strategy to revamp the company's software to support Web services, which is a new way to build programs.

Why would this strategy threaten Sun?
Microsoft's .Net includes technology that competes directly with Sun's Java and Java 2 Enterprise Edition products. Both companies are attempting to attract developers who are building new software that will ultimately run on more profitable products.

Sun's goal is to sell server hardware; Microsoft's plan is to drive sales of Windows and related business software.

Was Sun's lawsuit a surprise?
No. Lawsuits by some of Microsoft's biggest competitors were widely expected after an appeals court agreed last year with a federal judge who determined that Microsoft is an abusive monopolist that violated antitrust laws.

AOL Time Warner filed a similar lawsuit against Microsoft in January.