Microsoft Buys Unix Partner

Just days before the closing arguments in the Department of Justice vs. Microsoft Corp.

Just days before the closing arguments in the Department of Justice vs. Microsoft Corp. case, Microsoft managed to slide one more corporate buyout under the carpet.

Late Friday, Microsoft issued a statement acknowledging it had purchased privately owned Softway Systems Inc. for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, several Softway executives and a number of the Softway development team members are expected to join Microsoft, but Microsoft would not comment on particulars. Microsoft is not commenting on whether it plans to move the San Francisco, Calif.-based company to the Redmond, Wash., area.

Microsoft officials also declined to say exactly what it intends to do with Softway's various products. Softway's best known as the developer of an IEEE-compliant Posix subsystem for Windows NT in the form of its Interix (formerly known as the OpenNT) platform.

"They [Softway] have great tools for migration. We're looking at their whole rich set of products," says Windows 2000 product manager Steve Stanzel. "We've worked with them for quite some time. The business opportunity [to buy Softway] presented itself at this time."

A Four-Year History

Microsoft invested in Softway four years ago to help Microsoft redo the Posix system that Microsoft included in NT. More recently, Microsoft was relying on Softway to help it achieve Unix95 branding for NT from The Open Group.

Since last year, Microsoft has been stepping up its efforts to improve NT's interoperability with Unix. In recent months, the Unix branding and Unix reseller recruitment efforts have taken a back seat to Microsoft's NT Services For Unix (SFU) add-on product. SFU is designed to make NT systems look more like Unix ones. Microsoft is currently beta testing version 2.0 of its SFU offering.

In its statement, Microsoft said the Softway buy was evidence of its commitment to boosting interoperability between NT and Unix.

But one Microsoft partner, who requested anonymity, had a different take on why Microsoft bought Softway. "Softway was running out of money. Microsoft never mentioned them when talking about Unix-NT integration. And Microsoft put the MKS [Mortice Kern Systems Inc.] Korn Shell into its products," obviating the need for Softway's products and services.