Bristol, Microsoft spar over "friends and enemies" pricing

A Microsoft manager called by Bristol Technologies in its private antitrust lawsuit against the software giant has acknowledged a Microsoft memo saying applications for price discounts should be categorised according to whether companies were 'friends, enemies or neutral,' to Microsoft.

Bristol Technologies called a manager at Microsoft to testify yesterday in its private antitrust lawsuit against the software giant in an attempt to show Microsoft was manipulating the use of price discounts to take business away from rival operating systems.

Dan Neault, a Microsoft director of business development, confirmed a Microsoft memo that said applications for price discounts should be categorised according to whether companies were "friends, enemies or neutral," to Microsoft.

A Microsoft spokesman said later that the memo was written by a low-level employee and did not represent Microsoft policy.

Bristol sued Microsoft in US District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, last August, alleging Microsoft acted in an anticompetitive manner and harmed Bristol by cutting the company off from access to its Windows source code.

Bristol sells cross-platform development products that enable Windows applications to run on other operating systems. Its key product, WIND/U, lets companies port applications from Windows to Unix.

Bristol and a competitor, Mainsoft , sought discounts from Microsoft for some of their customers.

The discount program was manipulated by Microsoft to discourage companies from using Unix, Jean Blackwell, Bristol vice president of marketing and sales, said after the testimony.

However, Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla denied any impropriety in the discount program. Pilla said Neault would explain the program fully tomorrow under questioning from Microsoft lawyers.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or at http://www.microsoft.com. Bristol Technologies Inc. can be reached at 1+1-203-798-1007, or at http://www.bristol.com/.

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