On May 18, 1998, the United States Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Microsoft Corporation. The Department charged the company with trying to protect its monopoly over computer operating systems by using illegal means to destroy the market for Netscape, which Microsoft feared would eventually compete with Windows.
The trial took place between October 1998 and June 1999. Only 12 witnesses were called. Bill Gates’ long videotaped deposition taken in August 1998 was used extensively.
On November 5, 1999, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued his “findings of facts” from the trial, which supported most of the Department of Justice’s complaints. Five months later, on April 3, 2000, he issued his “conclusions of law” that Microsoft had used its monopoly power to harm competitors like Netscape.
Two months later, on June 7, 2000, Jackson issued his remedies decision, which called for splitting Microsoft into two companies and restricting its business practices.
Microsoft appealed to the Washington DC Court of Appeals, which on June 28, 2001, ruled mostly in favor of the company, including reversing the split up of the company. The Appeals Court also removed Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson from the case for improper behavior by talking about the case to reporters.
A final settlement was reached between the Department of Justice and Microsoft on November 12, 2002. Instead of breaking up the company, the settlement imposed new restrictions on Microsoft’s use of monopoly power.
In the end, Microsoft destroyed the threat of Netscape and suffered relatively mild consequences in return.
Links to more information on the Web:
- The U.S. Department of Justice complaint against Microsoft (May 18, 1998)
- Transcript of trial (October 19, 1998-June 23, 1999)
- The US District Court for DC’s devastating “Findings of Fact” about Microsoft (Nov 5, 1999)
- The US District Court for DC’s Conclusions of Law (April 3, 2000)
- The final judgment in the case (Nov 12, 2002)
Microsoft statement on signing consent decree (Nov 2, 2001)
Criticism of the settlement
- Microsoft’s Monopoly: Anti-Competitive Behavior, Predatory Tactics, And The Failure Of Governmental Will by Gregory T. Jenkins and Robert W. Bing
- The US Department of Justice and the states of New York, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, and Wisconsin review of the consent Final Judgments (August 31, 2007)
- Appeal by the State of Massachusetts to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (June 30, 2004)
Depositories of documents
- US Department of Justice webpage with links to Microsoft case documents
- Microsoft webpage with links to case documents and statements by Microsoft
- Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society
- Bill Gates video deposition in case (August 27, 1998)
(Part 1, 53:18)
- Part 2, 59:38)
- Part 3, 1:10:2
- Part 4 55:23
- Part 5, 1:46:12
- Part 6, 1:28:30
- Part 7, 53:05
- Part 8, 23:45
- Part 9, 1:02:23
- Part 11, 1:12;42
- Part 12, 1:00:48
Ten-year video reminiscence of Microsoft case by lead plaintiff lawyer David Boies
- The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth: The untold story of the Microsoft antitrust case and what it means for the future of Bill Gates and his company by John Heilemann for Wired magazine (November 2000)
- The Microsoft Antitrust Case: A Case Study For MBA Students by Nicholas Economides of New York University (Revised April 2003)
The European Commission fines Microsoft 561 million euros in 2013 for failing to comply with a 2009 agreement to provide Europeans with a choice of browsers to use.
Books about the case:
- World War 3.0 : Microsoft and Its Enemies by Ken Auletta (Random House, 2001)
- Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era by John Heilemann (HarperCollins, 2001)
- Competing On Internet Time: Lessons From Netscape And Its Battle With Microsoft by Michael A. Cusumano (Free Press, 1998)