Well, perhaps not quite the end of an era given all of the intense antitrust scrutiny that continues in the high-tech sector. But it seems like it should not go without noting that the Microsoft case will officially come to an end on May 12th. The San Francisco Chronicle observes:
In a final hearing in the case yesterday, Judge Kollar-Kotelly agreed to let the consent decree between Microsoft and the DoJ expire on May 12 as planned.
The judge had already extended the oversight twice — it was originally supposed to expire in 2007, but the judge pushed out the date a year because Microsoft didn’t move quickly enough to release useful documentation about how Windows PCs communicate with other software. In 2009, she extended the date for another two years.
- Europe. The EU has already fined Microsoft billions from a similar investigation that ended in 2004, and has since launched at least one more preliminary investigation into browser choice. Microsoft offered a “browser ballot” in Europe before the second investigation went too far, but competitors are watching for any hint of Microsoft’s old behavior and will run to the EU with a new complaint if they see it.
- Precedent. Although the final settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. government wasn’t that harmful, the case itself set an important precedent: Microsoft was found to have monopoly power in the market for personal computer operating systems. That means it’s still subject to a different standard of behavior than companies who have never been deemed monopolies.