Case Closed: Microsoft Marks the End of an Era

U.S. oversight of the software company ceases, bringing a landmark antitrust case to an end.

In 2000, a federal judge ruled that Microsoft was as much a threat to competition within the U.S. economy as Standard Oil had been almost a century earlier. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson proceeded to order that the company be split in two.

Jackson ruled that Microsoft had "placed an oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune." Microsoft's then-CEO, Bill Gates, called the decision "the most massive attempt at government regulation of the technology industry ever."

The main allegation in the original lawsuit, filed in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general of 19 states and the District of Columbia, was that Microsoft had illegally maintained a monopoly in PC operating systems.

The breakup order didn't survive Microsoft appeals, which led to the DOJ's imposition of a limited set of rules designed to keep the company from punishing equipment makers that sold rival products, and to prevent it from withholding its APIs from third-party developers.

DOJ supervision of those remedies ended on May 12, marking the close of a landmark case that began 13 years ago.

In recent years, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who oversaw Microsoft's compliance with the twice-extended November 2002 settlement agreement between Microsoft and the DOJ, focused mostly on a small piece of the settlement -- the requirement that Microsoft share technical documentation for communication protocols with competitors.

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