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Computer Trade Group Accuses IBM Of Unfair Practices

December 10, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Officials of the leading computer software industry trade group, accusing IBM of unfair trade practices, will discuss Friday whether to take up their complaints with U.S. and European governmental agencies.

The trade group, Adapso, says International Business Machines Corp. is withholding critical information that would allow competitors to make compatible products, and is locking up the software market by bundling programs into one-price packages.

The accusations are reminiscent of the 1970s and early 1980s, when IBM was under virtually constant attack on antitrust grounds.

An IBM spokesman described the charges Thursday as ″groundless.″

About half a dozen executives belonging to Adapso will discuss their next step Friday in a conference telephone call, Adapso spokesman Chris Carleton said.

Under discussion is the possibility of informally raising their allegations with the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and the European Economic Community, Carleton said.

The computer software and services industry has long had an uneasy relationship with IBM, the world’s dominant computer company, but tensions have heightened in recent months, Information Week magazine will report in its Monday editions.

IBM’s U.S. competitors were stung in September when an arbitration order gave Fujitsu Ltd. controlled access to the so-called ″source code″ of IBM mainframe computers, allowing Fujitsu to keep its own computers compatible.

They say they should be granted the same level of access to programming information as Fujitsu.

More recently, software companies complained about IBM’s decision to release a version of the operating software for its new line of personal computers that will include features such as data-base and communications managers.

The competitors complain that they will not be able to sell their own data- base and communications programs if IBM gives them to customers as part of its operating system, the program that governs a computer’s internal operations.

IBM executives Robert Berland and Ambrose Carr Jr. have been trying to get their side of the story across in board meetings this week of Washington-based Adapso, of which IBM is a member.

IBM is granting sufficient information to competitors to allow them to make compatible products, IBM spokesman John Mihalec said Thursday.

As for the issue of Fujitsu’s special access, Mihalec said that was granted under an arbitration order and was not voluntary. Arbitrators have said Fujitsu’s access will be tightly limited, Mihalec noted.

On the issue of bundled software for IBM’s new Personal System-2 line, Mihalec said customers who want to buy only the operating system itself without the extras can do so.

″We feel that the charge that IBM is bundling software is without merit,″ Mihalec said.

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