updated 08:05 pm EST, Fri December 16, 2011
Judge says jury could not decide on Novell suit
(Update: clarification) Judge J. Frederick Motz on Friday dismissed a longstanding Novell lawsuit against Microsoft. The antitrust complaint, filed in 2004, was tossed after a jury couldn't reach a uniform verdict on whether or not Microsoft had abused its market lead by changing code that broke WordPerfect's Windows 95 support just before the 16-year-old OS arrived. Jurors said they were "hopelessly deadlocked" and didn't see any extensions of deliberations solving the problem.
Novell had sued years later and two years after a main DOJ antitrust ruling. According to its view, Microsoft had led Novell to believe WordPerfect would run on Windows 95 without much work. Changing the code not only locked WordPefect out for a crucial period but helped a gradual erosion of market share from 40 percent to under 10 percent and helped spur a decision to sell WordPerfect at a $1.2 billion loss.
Microsoft has always put the blame back on Novell, including through testimony from now ex-CEO Bill Gates. They claimed that it was slow and otherwise flawed and that Novell just hadn't moved fast enough. Gates went so far as to call Word simply "better."
The practices have largely changed at Microsoft, in part as the 2002 antitrust decision, along with later EU rulings, forced a change in policies that encouraged more interoperability and put any of Microsoft's practices under tight watch. Terms of the US decision only just expired this year.
Update: The judge dismissed a hung jury. Outside of a settlement between Novell and Microsoft, the court would pick a new jury and try the case again, considering the earlier case a mistrial.