Microsoft is still trying to "leverage" its Windows operating-system monopoly to control all software markets, said the former judge who...
Microsoft is still trying to “leverage” its Windows operating-system monopoly to control all software markets, said the former judge who ordered the company’s breakup in the U.S. government’s landmark antitrust case.
“Nothing has changed, to my observation, in the five years that have elapsed since my decision,” said Thomas Penfield Jackson, who retired last year as a federal judge. He said the settlement of the government’s case hasn’t lessened Microsoft’s power in the marketplace or changed its business strategy of trying to expand its monopoly.
“Windows is an operating-system monopoly, and the company’s business strategy was to leverage Windows to achieve a comparable dominion over all software markets,” Jackson said in Washington, D.C., at a conference sponsored by the American Antitrust Institute.
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In 2001, a U.S. appeals court overturned the judge’s breakup order handed down the previous year, leaving the world’s largest software maker intact.
However, it upheld Jackson’s findings that Microsoft illegally protected its Windows monopoly for personal computer operating software by squelching competition from rival Netscape Communications’ Web browser.
The Bush administration, which inherited the case from the Clinton administration, settled with Microsoft once the company agreed to let computer makers promote rival software products.
Jackson defended his decision to grant the Clinton administration’s request to break up the company.
“The Microsoft persona I had been shown throughout the trial was one of militant defiance, unapologetic for its past behavior and determined to continue as before,” he said.
Jackson said he “had no illusions that an order less drastic than that advocated by the government would meet with Microsoft’s even grudging submission.”
Jackson didn’t criticize the settlement negotiated by the Bush administration, which drew objections from half the 19 states that had joined the Justice Department in suing Microsoft.
Still, he noted Microsoft hasn’t “fared so well in Europe,” where antitrust enforcers ordered it to sell a version of Windows without a music and video player and to grant competitors access to information on the inner workings of the operating system.
“Microsoft has won the browser war in the United States,” Jackson said, noting that Netscape’s Navigator, now owned by Time Warner, “has only a small fraction of the browser market.”
Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said the company won’t comment on the former judge’s remarks.
Microsoft supporter Jim Prendergast disputed Jackson’s description of the software industry. “Five years later, the industry has certainly been competing as vigorously as ever,” said Prendergast, president of Americans for Technology Leadership.
“You can run three or four different browsers that are widely available now on your laptop,” Prendergast said.
“The settlement was a much more reasonable approach” than Jackson’s “Draconian breakup remedy.”
The appeals court that overturned Jackson’s breakup order also disqualified him from overseeing further proceedings in the case because he had granted interviews to reporters during the trial.