Are Open Software's Standards Shutting Out Competitors?

The Open Software Foundation was formed in 1988 in response to a dispute over who should control the evolution of "open systems" based on American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s Unix program. The OSF's charter was to assemble the best pieces of Unix-based software and create a compatible set of programs that all computer makers might license. But from the start, the 280-member organization has been surrounded by controversy. Critics charge that the group, which includes such heavyweights as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Digital Equipment, wields too much influence by setting industry standards. The OSF, in fact, has confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating it on that matter.

Now, Addamax Corp., a Champaign (Ill.) developer of computer-security software, has filed antitrust charges against the OSF, Digital, and HP. Addamax alleges in its suit, filed in Boston, that the OSF's inclusion of a rival security program in its operating system, coupled with its standards-setting power, has effectively prevented Addamax from reaching 70% of its potential customers. The OSF declines to comment.

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