WASHINGTON–Microsoft Corp.s .Net Passport authentication system has the potential to lock large enterprises into a “Microsoft-controlled world,” according to a Sun Microsystems Inc. executive who testified on Tuesday in the ongoing proceeding to establish anti-trust remedies against the Redmond, Wash., software maker.
Jonathan Schwartz, chief strategy officer at Sun, was the latest witness called by nine states and the District of Columbia, which rejected a federal anti-trust settlement crafted in November. Schwartz said that the proposed federal settlement would not prevent Microsoft from using .Net in the same way it used its dominant operating system and its browser against Netscape Navigator and the Java platform, which got it into the current anti-trust imbroglio in the first place.
When users sign up for Passport, their personal information is stored on a Microsoft server, allowing Microsoft to become an intermediary between a customer and an online enterprise, according to Schwartz. Absent the states remedy provisions, Microsoft would be able to ensure that more users sign up for Passport than competing authentication systems because the proposed federal settlement would not allow OEMs to install a rival to Passport, he said.
Microsoft attorney Steve Holley questioned Schwartzs motive for criticizing Passport, asking him whether he was seeking to scare enterprise users into using the Liberty Alliance alternative. Initiated by Sun, the Liberty Alliance is a cross-industry group developing open security systems. “Dont you really see it as a mechanism for generating revenue to benefit Sun shareholders?” Holley asked.
Holley challenged Schwartz to concede that “the name [Liberty Alliance] was created as an insult to Microsoft Corp.” and that Sun uses the organization to bash Microsoft.
“With all due respect, I think thats a little paranoid,” Schwartz replied.
Following a strategy used in the cross-examination of other rivals called as states witnesses, Holley outlined Suns involvement with the state attorney general offices in drafting the remedy proposal. He questioned whether Sun would benefit in the marketplace from the remedy proposal, which requires that Java be included in Microsofts operating system.
Also today, the states called its first expert witness, Andrew Appel, a professor at Princeton University, who testified in favor of the states proposal to require Microsoft to make modular versions of the operating system with removeable middleware available to developers.
Microsoft is expected to begin calling its own witnesses to the stand next week.