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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK

Business: The Company File

Sun calls for Microsoft to be kept intact

Microsoft awaits the outcome of an anti-trust lawsuit

By the BBC's Richard Quest from Telecom 99 in Geneva.

As the Microsoft anti-trust trial draws to a close, one of its competitors has said that he doesn't want the computer software giant to be broken up into several parts.

These parts are often called Baby Bills after the founder Bill Gates.

Mr Scott McNeally, CEO of Sun Microsystems, one of the world's largest computer network companies, said that breaking up Microsoft up was the last thing he wanted.

Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, is awaiting the outcome of an anti-trust lawsuit brought by the US government, which accuses it of abusing a monopoly position in the computer operating systems market - a charge Microsoft denies.

Mr McNeally's views contrast with those of Larry Ellison, chairman of software developer Oracle. He says Microsoft had broken anti-trust laws and should be broken up.

In an interview with the BBC at Telecom 99 in Geneva, Mr McNeally said: "We don't need more Microsofts."

Instead, he said the judge should ensure that the company has transparent pricing and is unable to pose an illegal threat to their competitors.

Shutting out competition

Particularly, he criticised the way Microsoft has shut out competition in many markets.

"The most important remedy must be that Microsoft not be allowed to invest in new companies and buy out new technology companies, it just doesn't make sense."

Then, referring to the 1920's anti-trust case against Standard Oil, he commented that "Rockefeller should not have been allowed to buy every gas station in the world and Microsoft should not be allowed to buy all its customers."

The issue clearly hits Sun Microsystems hard, which, with its Java programme, now competes directly with Microsoft Windows for customers.

Mr McNeally believes the best way to handle the Seattle company is to constrain it. Referring to the agreements in the similar case of IBM in the 1970s and 80s he said that "if it had not been for the (court) scrutiny we would not have gotten Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Sun and all the companies ... And IBM was still a wonderful company" without being broken up.

Laughing at Microsoft

Mr McNeally's pique with Microsoft goes much deeper though: Here in Geneva he said he "laughed" when Bill Gates launched his internet policy of "Anywhere, Anytime, Any device" in Geneva on Tuesday. "We've been saying that for a few years. Some of our competitors have just figured it out."

The idea for Sun Microsystems is to continue developing systems that do allow for the integration of wireless technology with the internet.

Mr McNeally wants to create a world where the television, or cellular phone allows you to surf the net, shop at auctions and buy and sell stocks. And although that might be some way off for some neighbourhoods, he is confident that it is only a matter of time before this is enjoyed by everyone.

Opportunity for developing world

But wandering around the convention halls here in Geneva, with the huge number of gadgets on display it is becoming clear that there are those who are connected and those who are not. Critics claim that the developing world is being left out by this new converged connected world.

Mr McNeally bristles at that, "it is false, misleading and potentially worrying."

Far from creating Haves and Have Nots in the world, he says cellular and internet convergence offers "real opportunities ... you can do distance learning without building a school, because that is not going to happen for some time. Or Telemedicine. I think the net is about helping and closing the gap, not creating a larger gap."

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