Federal antitrust oversight of Microsoft formally ends


Back in 2002, software giant Microsoft signed a settlement agreement with the United States Justice Department after the company was found to have violated U.S. antitrust laws. Part of the consent decree included the Department of Justice monitoring Microsoft’s compliance with the deal by way of a corporate compliance committee. That oversight period comes to an end today; in theory, Microsoft no longer has to demonstrate to the federal government that it isn’t violating antitrust laws or engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

The details of the settlement were complicated, but in a nutshell Microsoft was found to have used its effective monopoly in the computer operating system market to suppress competition and strong-arm other companies. The terms of the agreement made it easier for computer makers to, say, include third-party Web browsers on their PCs as part of a default installation, or opt to remove Windows components like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player if they wanted. The settlement also required Microsoft to offer uniform licensing terms, and release some technical data so third party developers could create products that fully interoperated with key Microsoft technologies.

There’s no denying the nature of the computing industry has shifted substantially since the consent decree was formulated. Internet search has become a major market—and Microsoft is still struggling to be a significant player there. Microsoft’s once near-complete dominance of the browser market has been whittled down: where Internet Explorer once accounted for well over 90 percent of the market, it now accounts for just over half.

However, where Microsoft’s Windows operating system used to account for about 93 percent of the desktop computing market, today it accounts for about 91 percent, according to recent figures from IDC. Microsoft’s operating system dominance—as well as they juggernaut of its Microsoft Office, Exchange, and server products—has scarcely shifted since the Justice Department consent decree went into effect.

The success of Microsoft’s desktop operating system and applications market—and the cash those businesses generate—has enabled Microsoft to sink billions of dollars into efforts like the Xbox gaming platform, which only started making money for Microsoft comparatively recently. Microsoft has also used its reserves to take on Apple’s iPod juggernaut (unsuccessfully with the Zune), Google’s Internet search dominance (with Bing), and now to leverage its way into the smartphone market with the Windows Phone platform (including , most likely, its brand-new $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype).

Few other companies could base their business strategies on sustaining years of substantial losses just to make sure they have a share of what they believe will be a lucrative market—and those strategies are fundamentally funded by Microsoft’s ongoing dominance of desktop operating systems and applications. New technology markets may have emerged since Microsoft was found to be abusing its monopoly power, but that finding—and the company’s settlement with the Justice Department—has not impacted Microsoft’s ability to leverage its Windows dominance.


Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From DirectX Box to 720, it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.

Microsoft reverses decision and extends lifeline to MS Paint for Windows 10

Microsoft reversed its decision to deprecate the classic MS Paint software on Windows 10. Microsoft announced on Twitter that the mainstay free image editor that comes pre-installed with Windows will live on for now.

Microsoft deal takes up to $400 off select Surface Book 2 laptops

Microsoft is running a promotion for the Surface Book 2, taking as much as $400 off the price of the laptop at the Microsoft Store. The promotion applies to select 13.5- or 15-inch configurations of the convertible laptop.

Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.

Pain in the wrists? Type in comfort with one of these great ergonomic keyboards

Long typing sessions can leave anyone's wrists aching, but if you have one of the best ergonomic keyboards, that doesn't have to be the case. Our list of favorites will support good typing posture while being comfortable to use.

Lenovo Legion, IdeaPad gaming laptops sport 9th-gen CPUs and 16-series graphics

Lenovo is expanding its gaming laptop range with a line of new Legion and IdeaPad notebooks that sport Intel's latest, ninth-generation Core CPUs up to an i7 and a choice of Nvidia graphics with options for everything up to an RTX 2080…
Product Review

Without 4K or Core i9, the new Razer Blade Pro trades features for polish

Razer hasn’t updated its 17-inch gaming laptop for a couple of years, while showering most of its attention on the smaller sibling. The new Razer Blade Pro takes a lot of cues from the 15-inch model, stretching it out for the big screen.

Asus launches a fleet of ROG gaming laptops with 240Hz screens and 9th-gen CPUs

Asus launched updates to nearly every gaming laptop line they have, ranging from the high-end Zephyrus to the budget-level TUF Gaming. The naming schemes might be hard to parse, but there are some impressive options in Asus' new lineup.

Nvidia’s new GTX 1660 Ti and 1650 graphics cards for laptops start at $799

Nvidia announced the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650, two new mobile graphics cards to flesh out the Turing lineup for laptops. These GPUs don't have the ray tracing capabilities of the RTX 20 series, but start at much lower prices.

Acer gives Predator, Nitro gaming notebooks CPU and GPU upgrades

Acer's latest gaming notebooks will be getting a processor and graphics boost. The company announced that Intel's ninth-generation mobile CPU and Nvidia's GTX 1660 Ti will land on the Predator Helios 300, Nitro 7, and Nitro 5 laptops.

Dell’s XPS 15 steps up its game with next-gen Intel, Nvidia chips

Dell announced a redesigned XPS 15 with a webcam positioned up top, and the internals make this Ultrabook an even better gaming laptop. The XPS 15 can be configured with Intel's 9th-Gen processors and Nvidia's GTX 16-Series GPU.

From simple work tools to high-end gaming peripherals, these are the best mice

If you're looking to buy the best mouse for you, whether it's for gaming or work, we have something for you. We've put together a list of our favorite mice, all of which have great features and sell at a great price.

Amazon drops deals on Razer, Netgear, and Western Digital PC accessories

Grab these deals while you can: As part of their Deal of the Day promotion, Amazon is offering deep discounts on a wide variety of PC accessories including premium gaming mice, external hard drives, and even Wi-Fi routers.

WWDC 2019 Complete Coverage

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is a key tech event each year, and for Apple fans, it will be one of the two best times of 2019 (along with "new iPhone day," of course). For the last few years, Apple has debuted much of its…