A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed an attempt by four major computer manufacturers to overturn federal data processing standards that the firms claimed favored IBM and Japanese computer manufacturers at their expense.
Judge John Garrett Penn ruled yesterday that even though Honeywell Information Systems Inc., Control Data Corp., Burroughs Corp. and Sperry Corp. might be harmed by the specifications, they had no standing to challenge them in court.
The specifications were adopted under a law aimed at saving money, not at protecting the interests of the other computer manufacturers, Penn noted.
At stake is approximately $1 billion a year that the federal government spends for computer equipment.
IBM's competitors had attempted to block adoption of the federal standards, arguing that retooling to meet them could cost them billions of dollars and put them at a competitive disadvantage in the race for federal dollars. The companies also charged that the standards would saddle federal agencies with obsolete equipment and limit competition for government awards.
"We don't deny that (the firms) will suffer injury," assistant U.S. Atorney Scott Kragie conceded at a hearing on the government's motion to dismiss the complaint. "We expect to save approximately $60 million (through the adoption of the standards)," he said. "Those savings have to come from somewhere."
James R. McAlee, one of the attorneys representing the complaining firms, argued that the standards had been issued in violation of due process and were based on the faulty premise that other companies could conform to them easily by using adaptors.
The controversy centered on four standards to be used by federal agencies in procuring automated data processing equipment. The standards govern connections between peripheral equipment -- such as video display terminals and printers -- and central processing equipment.
Only a handful of compaines, including IBM and the four companies suing the government, manufacture both control processing equipment and peripheral equipment.
A larger number of companies manufacture peripheral equipment, which accounted for approximately 39 percent of the government's data processing equipment purchases in fiscal 1979. The notion behind standardizing the manner in which peripheral equipment hooks up to a central system was to allow the peripheral manufacturers to bid more easily on federal contracts, increasing competition and saving money, the government has said.