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Bristol demands $263 million as MS trial goes to jury

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MS on Trial The closing arguments in Bristol Technology's antitrust suit against Microsoft were heard yesterday, with the Connecticut company asking for damages of up to $263 million. These could be tripled, if the jury concludes that Microsoft is guilty of anti-competitive behaviour, so the total tab could be as high as $789 million. Bristol's damages claim dwarfs the company's annual revenues, but the sum is based on projections of lost profits between March 1997, when its relationship with Microsoft started going bad, and December 2006. Specifically Bristol says it lost valuable OEM contracts with SGI and IBM because of Microsoft's actions. Bristol is also seeking access to Windows 2000 source code. During the trial the company has argued, with some success, that Microsoft engaged in predatory activities committed with the intent of winning a monopoly in the departmental server market. Bristol, whose Wind/U product is intended to act as a bridge between Windows and Unix, was collateral damage and - as is the way of things these days - the company produced copious emails indicating the Microsoft high command's shady intent. Microsoft jacked up the price of NT source code for Bristol, and started backing rival Mainsoft. Bristol attorney Patrick Lynch yesterday argued that "Microsoft engaged in a classic bait and switch, in which the bait was its monopoly power in the personal computer market and the switch was tearing down the bridge." The Microsoft email traffic covering this process makes the usual interesting reading: "So, would someone please explain to me why we would license WBEM to the 'enemy' and enable them to port and resell a competing version," says one, while another goes, nastily: "Can we proactively cement our competitors in a position where they are a year and a half behind in functionality by choosing the horse and making it unattractive for the others to enter the game." Bill himself was, of course, involved. He suggests "picking Mainsoft as our partner for Windows," thus tilting support away from Bristol, while later Bob Muglia reported to him that cutting royalties to Mainsoft had had the desired effect, and that it was no longer necessary "to further anoint Mainsoft." The Microsoft licensing programme is also well covered. One MS employee describes the deals as "limited in time to a very short horizon," so that "OEMs would always be very close to not getting any further updates from us." Another pointed out that the licensing programme wasn't about making Unix a better OS for application development (this is what Bristol thought it was about) but "killing Java and then Unix." Frankly, it doesn't look good, but then few of Microsoft's antitrust suits do, right now. Jury deliberations are scheduled to begin today. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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