“The worst thing that could come of this is I could fall down the steps of the FTC building, hit my head and kill myself,” quipped Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates in 1992, as the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation of his company. But nobody joked on the third day of April, 2000, as Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson delivered his decision on what had morphed into the biggest software antitrust case in history: The United States of America vs. Microsoft.
“The court concludes that Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anticompetitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web browser market,” Jackson declared.
Ten years ago, on September 26, 2000, that trial took a crucial turn towards the settlement that would allow Microsoft to retain its vast control over the personal computer operating system market. Let’s revisit the essentials of that case, and follow the aftermath—a legacy of endless negotiation and struggle with the entity that, to this day, is the OS on 91.32 percent of the world’s PCs.