A federal magistrate's order in a lawsuit against Microsoft is bringing international attention to Orem-based Caldera Inc.
Magistrate Ronald Boyce on Tuesday ordered Microsoft to turn over source code for Windows 95 to Caldera's lawyers and expert witnesses as the software company prepares for a June 7 trial against Microsoft.From his office on Wednesday, Caldera President and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Sparks characterized Boyce's order as a procedural step in the march toward trial.
Caldera as a company and the lawsuit were born simultaneously when Caldera bought computer operating system DR-DOS from Novell in 1996. Caldera alleges Microsoft created artificial barriers to potential users of DR-DOS to protect its own MS-DOS and is suing for treble damages. Sparks said victory in the trial would benefit a number of software companies whose products either compete with or have to be compatible with Microsoft products, but he wasn't trumpeting Tuesday's incremental victory.
But then the phone started ringing and Sparks spent the rest of the the day talking with reporters from the United States and Europe who were wondering if Caldera, with its 70 employees, was a David who had inflicted a flesh wound on a Goliath.
Other antitrust suits recently filed against Microsoft, after all, were levied by much bigger hitters: the Justice Department and a consortium of attorneys general from 20 states. At issue there is Microsoft's bundling of its Windows operating system software with its Explorer Web browser software. The lawsuit was filed after Microsoft recently ignored the Justice Department's order that Windows 98 not be released with Explorer in the box.
Sparks said later Wednesday that Microsoft's failed attempt to get the venue for its lawsuit changed from Salt Lake City to Microsoft's home turf in Washington was Caldera's biggest pretrial victory. Convincing the court in February to allow Caldera to include Microsoft 95 as an example of Microsoft's alleged unfair antitrust practices was the second largest battle won. The third largest victory came Tuesday when Boyce ordered Microsoft to turn over the code - the figurative DNA - for Windows 95.
The code in question isn't every chapter on Windows 95. "It's a tiny fraction and can't be used (commercially) in any other way," Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said. "The real argument wasn't giving them the information, just ensuring that protections were in place."
Cullinan called the overall Windows 95 blueprints "one of the most valuable pieces of our intellectual property."
Sparks said Caldera's DR-DOS could drive Windows 95 as well or better than Microsoft's MS-DOS, but the mix won't happen since Microsoft includes MS-DOS when it sells Windows 95 and when it packages its Windows operating system in new computers. Microsoft's Windows systems are dependent on DOS through Windows 98 with the two parting ways in the Windows NT platform, he said.
It's kind of like the Wizard of Oz: DOS is the man behind the curtain that Microsoft wants users to ignore while Caldera has its DOS in the showcase, selling it as the operating system for specific-use computing devices like pay-at-the-pump card readers, inventory tracking computers and smart mobile phones.
"We claim that Windows 95 is an illegal and unnecessary tie of what we call Windows 4.0 and the MS-DOS operating system," Sparks said. "We believe that under monopoly law and the Sherman antitrust law that Microsoft shouldn't be able to tie those products together - much like the (Web browser) issue."
Tuesday's order wasn't a carte blanche victory for Caldera.
Novell hoped to keep secret internal documents created while it owned and was developing DR-DOS as a competitor to Microsoft's MS-DOS.
Novell founder Ray Noorda remains Novell's largest single stockholder, and the Ray Noorda Trust is the largest single Caldera investor. But Boyce ruled that Novell, which is not a party in the lawsuit, can't be shielded from providing its documents to Microsoft.