Re-framing Windows: The Durable Meaning of the Microsoft Antitrust Litigation

Interoperability and Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot

Author(s)

Harry First and Andy Gavil

Source

Utah Law Review, No. 3, pp. 641-723, 2006

Summary

This paper gives an overview of the results of the Microsoft antitrust case.

Policy Relevance

The failure of competition authorities to break up Microsoft shows that the law’s power to restrain powerful private actors is at risk.

Main Points

  • The original assertion of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in its antitrust suit against Microsoft was that Microsoft had a monopoly of desktop computer operating systems not by making a better product, but through its raw clout.
  • Judge Jackson, who presided over the trial court, planned to break up Microsoft. One part would be a new company that could make Microsoft’s Office software work with Linux, an open-source operating system. The court of appeals rejected this approach.
  • In January of 2001, the Bush Administration came to power and DOJ took a new approach. Ultimately, the case was settled without breaking Microsoft up.
  • Microsoft argued that the DOJ had been persuaded to bring suit to protect competitors, not competition. This blamed the DOJ for problems with competition in software markets, a “shoot the messenger" approach.
  • Because Microsoft was not broken up, problems with competition in the software market were not addressed. The role of antitrust law in limiting private power is at risk.

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