Microsoft Settles Anti-Trust Charges with Be

In an ongoing effort to put its roster of legal difficulties behind it, Microsoft has settled an anti-trust lawsuit filed by now-defunct Be Inc., for $23.3 million.

Be will receive the payout after attorney’s fees, and Microsoft admits no wrongdoing as part the deal, which was announced late Friday.

Microsoft’s settlement with Be is the second private anti-trust lawsuit settlement this year. Prior to the settlement, Be had alleged Microsoft’s domination of its Windows operating system was killing its competitive OS business. Be Inc. is now
defunct, and in addition to the more than $23 million as part of the
settlement, Microsoft will also be picking up Be’s legal tab.

While the specific merits of Be’s anti-trust case against will never be known, in its lawsuit Be did allege “the destruction of Be’s business resulting from the anti-competitive business practices of Microsoft.”

There was one specific instance when Be reportedly claimed Microsoft took actions to prevent Be’s presence of the BeOs next to Windows on a line of Hitachi Ltd. PCs.

Previously, Be claimed that in 1998 its Be Operating System was to be part of Hitachi’s pre-installed “dual boot system.” Be says Microsoft was angry with Hitachi’s decision and pressured the company with higher prices for its Windows OS. Any price increase would pressure Hitachi’s margins on each PC, making it more cost-effective to remove the BeOS.

Also prior to the settlement, Be had said Compaq Computer, now known as Hewlett-Packard , had agreed to develop a new Internet appliance based on the BeOS. In legal documents, Be said the deal fell through after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates put negotiating pressure on former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfieffer.

Back in 2001, Be sold off its remaining assets to Palm Inc. for $11 million, and has been winding up its operations and going about finalizing its legal arrangements.

This is the second private anti-trust suit settlement that Microsoft has concluded this year. Back in May, Microsoft reached a settlement with AOL Time Warner for $750 million after a long-running lawsuit by AOL’s Netscape browser division over Microsoft’s bundling tactics with its IE browser wrapped into its Windows operating system.

Be’s saga began when former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee in 1990 sought
to create a competitor to the Windows operating system. After having trouble
gaining traction in the PC marketplace, the company took legal action in an
attempt to recover financial damages from its claims that Microsoft struck
exclusive deals that prevented Be from being included in PC OS contracts.

Microsoft’s financial war chest is hardly touched with the payment to be of
more than $23 million, but the company does still have several outstanding
legal claims against it. There are close to 30 patent suits pending against
Microsoft, not to mention ongoing anti-trust proceedings by Sun Microsystems
and the European Union.

News Around the Web