ECON312ON: Principles of Economics
Summer B 2011
The Microsoft Case
Investigation into Microsoft began in 1991 by the Federal Trade Commission under suspicion that the company broke anti-trust laws and engaged in coercive activities prohibiting competitors from entering or participating equally in the market. “The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power and monopoly market structure on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales “(The Microsoft Monopoly, 1998). The primary concern of the Federal Trade Commission and eventually, the Department of Justice, was whether Microsoft should be able to bundle its own web browser, Internet Explorer with the Microsoft Windows operating system. In 1998, The Department of Justice brought an antitrust suit against Microsoft. The suit included “twenty U.S. states suing Microsoft for illegally thwarting competition in order to protect and extend its software monopoly” (United States v Microsoft). In the end, “Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft, with its Windows program, possessed monopoly power over a particular kind of operating system” (Rothstein, 2001). Later, the ruling was over-turned in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and in September 2001, the DOJ announced that it was no longer seeking to break up Microsoft as previously ordered by Judge Jackson. It would instead impose less of a penalty. I agree that this bundling allowed Microsoft monopolized success over other browsers attempting to compete, as all Microsoft Windows users had Internet Explorer automatically included with the operating system on any computer purchased. Microsoft deliberately and coercively maintained market power by giving “Internet service providers cash payment, free server software and promotional benefits if they featured Microsoft’s browser, and it pressured OEMs to ship only its...