Sun Grills Microsoft on Interoperability

As antitrust battle heats up, Sun challenges Microsoft's interoperability support.

BALTIMORE—After Sun Microsystems Inc. finished with its last witness, Microsoft Corp. Wednesday evening slogged through three witnesses and started on a fourth before calling it a day in the preliminary injunction hearing in the Sun Microsystems vs. Microsoft antitrust case here.

Microsoft put on three of its executives to refute claims by Sun that Microsoft used its market dominance to thwart the success of Java.

First, Andrew Layman, director of XML and Web services standards at Microsoft, took the stand to extol the virtues of Web services as an interoperability mechanism between disparate systems in a heterogeneous environment, eliminating the need for a "common runtime approach" like Java.

Steven Holley, an attorney for Microsoft, asked Layman why Microsoft, which has a dominant desktop operating system, would support a vendor neutral solution like Web services.

"Because it IS neutral," Layman said. "Because were convinced the world were going to be selling into is going to be widely heterogeneous. And if our software is able to interact well with a wide variety of computer systems, our software will sell better than if we focused on one platform."

On cross-examination, James Batchelder, an attorney for Sun, attacked Layman on just how true Microsofts and Laymans own support for interoperability is.

Batchelder asked Layman if he was familiar with the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization and then presented e-mail evidence where Layman discussed a project called "foo" with other Microsoft executives.

In an exchange during the testimony of James Allchin, a Microsoft senior executive, in the landmark government antitrust case against Microsoft, this issue first arose. In that proceeding foo was described as the codename at Microsoft for the WS-I, which documents showed Microsoft sought to exclude Sun from becoming a founding member.

In this hearing, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz asked, "What is foo?"