A US District Court Judge today ruled that Microsoft violated federal and various US state antitrust laws. Thomas Penfield Jackson said that only by viewing the company's various areas of misconduct as "a single, well-coordinated course of action does the full extent of the violence that Microsoft has done to the competitive process reveal itself."
The judge also ruled that Microsoft's tying of its Internet Explorer Web browser to the Windows operating system was illegal, and did not benefit consumers. "Internet Explorer is not the current 'best of breed' Web browser, nor is it likely to be so at any time in the immediate future," Jackson wrote.
He continued: "the fact that Microsoft itself was aware of this reality only further strengthens the conclusion that Microsoft's decision to tie Internet Explorer to Windows cannot truly be explained as an attempt to benefit consumers and improve the efficiency of the software market generally, but rather as part of a larger campaign to quash innovation that threatened its monopoly position."
Issuing his "conclusions of law," or the verdict, in the US government's antitrust case against the software maker, Jackson ruled that "Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anticompetitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web-browser market," in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Jackson had ruled last November that Microsoft is a monopoly. Now that he has ruled that Microsoft used its monopoly power to break federal and US state laws the next step will be to determine the "remedies" or penalties in the case.
Microsoft and the plaintiffs, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), 19 US state attorneys general and the District of Columbia, still could reach a settlement on those penalties. However, four months of settlement talks broke down over the weekend when a court-appointed mediator declared the sides at an impasse too great to be resolved. Jackson had urged the sides to settle and end the litigation.
Even if the sides now come to terms on penalties, the findings of fact establishing Microsoft as a monopoly and the conclusions of law would stand, though are subject to appeal. Microsoft issued a statement after the conclusions of law were released saying that the company will appeal today's ruling.
"Microsoft mounted a deliberate assault upon entrepreneurial efforts that, left to rise or fall on their own merits, could well have enabled the introduction of competition into the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems," Jackson wrote in today's ruling. "Microsoft placed an oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune, thereby effectively guaranteeing its continued dominance in the relevant market. More broadly, Microsoft's anticompetitive actions trampled the competitive process through which the computer software industry generally stimulates innovation and conduces to the optimum benefit of consumers."
Looking at Microsoft's overall conduct "also reinforces the conviction that it was predacious," Jackson wrote. "Microsoft paid vast sums of money, and renounced many millions more in lost revenue every year, in order to induce firms, to take actions that would help enhance Internet Explorer's share of browser usage at Navigator's expense," he continued, referring to Netscape Communication Corp.'s Navigator browser.
"Moreover, neither the desire to bolster demand for Windows nor the aspect of ancillary revenues from Internet Explorer can explain the lengths to which Microsoft has gone," Jackson wrote.