Microsoft’s long antitrust battles ends today, with the expiration of a consent decree the software giant signed with the U.S. Justice Department in 2002. Microsoft has spent 21 years — more than half its lifetime — fighting antitrust battles with the U.S. government. It has earned a page in the history books, waging one of the biggest monopoly wars in this country.
The antitrust lawsuit, some say, was the reason co-founder Bill Gates, the tech visionary behind Microsoft’s success, stepped down as CEO, and the Redmond computer giant has changed some of the ways it operates.
The Justice Department has declared victory:
The Microsoft final judgment, which has been in effect since 2002, was designed to eliminate Microsoft’s illegal practices, to prevent recurrence of the same or similar practices and to restore the potential for competition from software products known as “middleware.” To that end, the judgment protected the development and distribution of middleware — including web browsers, media players and instant messaging software — thereby increasing choices available to consumers.
The final judgment proved effective in protecting the development and distribution of middleware products and prevented Microsoft from continuing the type of exclusionary behavior that led to the original lawsuit. Microsoft no longer dominates the computer industry as it did when the complaint was filed in 1998. Nearly every desktop middleware market, from web browsers to media players to instant messaging software, is more competitive today than it was when the final judgment was entered. In addition, the final judgment helped create competitive conditions that enabled new kinds of products, such as cloud computing services and mobile devices, to develop as potential platform threats to the Windows desktop operating system.
Microsoft released this statement about the consent decree’s expiration:
Our experience has changed us and shaped how we view our responsibility to the industry. We are pleased to bring this matter to successful resolution, and we are excited to keep delivering great products and services for our partners and customers.