A decade of charges against Microsoft

CIOL Bureau
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BRUSSELS: The European Commission and Microsoft failed to reach a settlement on Thursday to a landmark antitrust case against the U.S. software giant.

EU and U.S. regulators have been involved in legal battles for more than a decade, charging Microsoft with blocking competition. Here is a chronology:


July 15: European Commission and U.S. Justice Department reach a deal with Microsoft to settle charges that the company used licensing policies to block competition, in particular by software maker Novell, then a rival. Microsoft agrees to modify licensing policies.


April: Microsoft drops acquisition of Intuit, maker of personal finance package Quicken, in face of U.S. Justice Department lawsuit.


November 24: European Commission reaches a deal with Microsoft to settle charges the company used licensing policies to block competition, this time against the Santa Cruz Operation, a Unix software maker. Microsoft agrees to waive contract provisions.

December 11: U.S. Justice Department says Microsoft broke the 1994 agreement and is blocking competition. U.S. judge later orders Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer browser from its ubiquitous Windows operating system, but it does not. Instead, company permits computer makers to install Windows without Internet Explorer icon.


May: U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia rules in favour of Microsoft, exempting Windows 98 from the U.S. judge's order.


February: European Commission says it is investigating if Microsoft blocked competition by bundling features in Windows 2000 to the disadvantage of rival makers of servers.

April 3: U.S. judge rules Microsoft used its monopoly power to block competition, later orders Microsoft be broken up.

July 7: In face of Brussels objections, Microsoft give up plan for joint control of British cable company Telewest Communications.

August 3: European Commission says in first Statement of Objections that Microsoft used its licensing policies to block competition, refusing to supply essential information to Sun Microsystems.


June 28: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejects Microsoft break-up and faults judge for failing to hold hearings on the matter. But it rules unanimously that Microsoft used its Windows monopoly to block competition.

August 30: European Commission sends second Statement of Objections charging that Microsoft tried to block competition against rival audiovisual software by bundling Windows Media Player into Windows, also that it tried to block competition against low-end servers by withholding information from rivals.


November 1: U.S. judge endorses remedies agreement between Justice Department and Microsoft which are aimed at increasing competition through licensing and other means.


August 6: European Commission sends Microsoft highly unusual third Statement of Objections, laying out a case that the company blocked competition. Commission warns it may fine Microsoft, may require company to unbundle Media Player or carry rival audio-visual software, and may require it to provide more information to rival makers of low-end software.


March 15: Antitrust experts from all 15 EU member states endorse Commission draft decision on Microsoft case.

March 16-17: Microsoft Chief Executive, Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith meet EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti in a bid for a last-minute settlement. Sources say Microsoft offers to require computer makers to carry rival audio-visual software alongside Media Player.

March 18: Monti announces that "a settlement on the Microsoft case has not been possible", says full European Commission will rule against company's abuse of dominant market position on March 24, 2004, including a proposed fine.

© Reuters