Email salvos to be fired in Microsoft case

The remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial began with both sides planning to rely heavily on internal emails and reports to tar and feather their opponents in the weeks ahead. But sometimes bad emails say good things about companies.

          The remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial began with both sides planning to rely heavily on internal emails and reports to tar and feather their opponents in the weeks ahead. But sometimes bad emails say good things about companies.

          Take the "internal use only - do not distribute" Sun Microsystems memo that Microsoft used last week to attack its competitor.

          Sun executives met last August with IT officials at three end-user firms deciding between Sun's web services offering, the Sun Open Net Environment, or Microsoft's .Net. The news from the end users wasn't good.

          "All three customers expressed a lack of faith in Sun's ability to perform, especially in areas where we are directly competitive to Microsoft," Sun officials wrote in the document that was introduced as evidence. In another part of the memo, the Sun executives wrote that the customers noted "a disconnection between [Sun CEO] Scott McNealy's vision of computing and Sun's actions - everyone believes the PC is here to stay."

          Ouch.

          Although he acknowledges that such revelations are "embarrassing," David Smith, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner, says, "I suspect that you could find those kinds of memos from any company."

          Indeed, during the next two months, both sides plan to introduce hundreds of emails, memos and other documents likely to include revelations about the internal workings of some of high-tech's largest firms. These frank emails could give IT executives rare insight into a vendor's culture.

          Sun's report of its client meeting, which included Merrill Lynch & Co, Thomson Legal Publishing and Reuters Group "fits their culture," says Mike Meyers, vice president of IT at Genesee & Wyoming, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based rail freight transportation provider.

          Sun has "a very academic culture. A lot of their model tends to be, 'Say what you feel, get in your face, get it out,'" he says. "I think that would be a lot better than trying to sugarcoat their feelings."

          Jon C Dell'Antonia, information systems director at clothing maker OshKosh B'Gosh, in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, says he would expect his employees to be as frank in their memos.

          "To me, [the Sun memo] doesn't say anything negative about Sun at all. It says that they feel comfortable in talking among one another," says Dell'Antonia. "Wouldn't you hope companies would be concerned about what their customers thought about them?"

          Microsoft introduced the document in US District Court as part of its defense against the tougher remedies sought by the District of Columbia and the nine states that have refused to sign the Bush administration settlement. The software giant was trying to show that competitors' missteps are to blame for any marketplace problems they may face - not Microsoft.

          But Microsoft will also be on the receiving end in this courtroom battle.

          The states intend to introduce a series of documents detailing discussions Microsoft had with Dell with the goal of giving Dell a "hard time" about selling Linux desktops. Dell last year pulled its desktop Linux line.

          Then there's the email from America Online CEO Barry Schuler to Seattle-based RealNetworks that said, "[Microsoft wants] to kill you guys so badly."

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Tags antitrust

More about America OnlineBushDellGartnerGeneseeLinuxMicrosoftRealNetworksReuters AustraliaScott CorporationSun MicrosystemsThomson

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