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Antitrust filings and dinosaur hecklings

Whispers are circulating that Sun will be the next antitrust filer against Microsoft. And IBM may file this one in its first-ever category: Its PartnerWorld confab gets a dinosaur-costumed heckler sent from Oracle.

Like Groucho, I'd never want to join a club that would have me as a member. And so I spend my time pining after organizations unlikely to accept me, like the U.S. women's bobsledding team, or any number of trade associations for journalists.

I can't say everyone has the same problem. But I'm not alone these days in wondering whether a certain notorious Microsoft-basher plans to be in or out of a select new clique.

Aiming its collective club for Redmond's beleaguered head, the antitrust crowd--namely Netscape and Be--are hanging on the Rumor Mill's every word as whispers circulate that Sun Microsystems will be the next to file its own private antitrust lawsuit against the software giant.

Microsoft reached a proposed settlement with federal trustbusters late last year, but that agreement has run into stiff opposition, and a hornet's nest of other class-action and corporate lawsuits is still buzzing in Steve Ballmer's ears.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy raised the prospect of litigation during a recent analyst meeting, but he shied away from revealing the company's hand. "We're evaluating and looking at all our options," he said.

On the one hand, a lawsuit from Sun would be no surprise. For nearly 20 years, McNealy has been chief cheerleader of the rebel forces, passing up few opportunities to tweak the empire or the emperor. Plus a federal appeals judge has already made Sun's case for it, ruling that Microsoft illegally tried to derail Java's progress.

But could McNealy stomach the company of market losers Netscape and Be, the two companies that have already filed their own antitrust suits against Bill, Ballmer and Co.? Even my 12-year-old son Vermel, once a fierce Mozilla loyalist, has finally taken poor Netscape off his laptop, and he tells me I'm getting senile when I mention Be's glory days.

The Financial Times poured fuel on the Sun rumor fire with a story saying the suit could come as soon as two weeks ago.

So far, no lawsuit.

But neither that nor McNealy's claim to News.com last year that "law enforcement is not my job" has done anything to stem the tide of rumors.

Eugene Crew, a class-action attorney suing Microsoft, said Sun might want to file its own suit in Washington, D.C., in hopes of joining the nine states that haven't settled with the software giant. That might be more of a winners' club, after all, and could give Sun more leverage in the decision over what punishment to inflict on Microsoft.

McNealy's handlers declined to comment. So did Microsoft, although one 'Softie Skinsider told us that a suit might be part of Sun's effort to gain a foothold in the Web services market by any means possible.

Sun has "no interest in anything but freezing the market," our Skinsider said.

Other dinosaurs in the news
McNealy isn't the only one dabbling in law enforcement these days.

At IBM's PartnerWorld conference in San Francisco this week, attendees say Big Blue called out the local rent-a-cops to banish an unwelcome and presumably uninvited guest: Oracle's IBM-database-tweaking mascot, the giant blue dinosaur dubbed Db2-a-saurus."

Attendees say IBM was not amused when Oracle parked the Cretaceous heckler outside the Moscone Conference Center on the back of a truck.

"They sent Moscone security to fuss over the truck," the Rumor Mill was told. "But since it was on public streets, they couldn't do much about it."

IBM was not amused. "It's clear to anyone in data management that IBM is the one with the momentum," spokeswoman Claire Briggs said.

The lizard in question could not be reached for comment.

What's in a name?
Finally, I received an update this week on a corporate identity crisis unearthed here a few weeks back. The tech media start-up behind Dig-it magazine has decided to change its name to avoid a trademark conflict. Originally christened "Consumertronics Media," the company has instead opted for the name "Prosumer Media," a name gleaned from the Iconocastic Michael Tchong, a Consumertronics founder.

You already know my name, now send me your rumors.