Saturday, December 4, 2021

Federal antitrust regulators are bringing up one of Microsoft’s toughest antitrust cases

Microsoft is headed back to federal antitrust regulators, who could agree to settle a long-running legal fight over the Redmond tech giant’s practices.

The U.S. Department of Justice brought a proposed $20 million settlement in 2009 against Microsoft for illegally bundling software designed to control Windows computers with its own Internet Explorer. The agency also accused Microsoft of failing to update the software quickly enough, and tying future computer upgrades to Windows Update, a one-stop shop for all your computer-related needs.

The agency now is in settlement discussions again, according to sources familiar with the matter. The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft, which has argued it was open and transparent with government agencies during the 2009 negotiation, declined to comment on the case.

The decade-old lawsuit is considered crucial to Microsoft’s efforts to drive further innovation in its sprawling portfolio of software products. It has become a test case of the ability of tech companies to be competitive without also becoming intrusive in consumers’ daily lives.

The 1990s-era Microsoft, which sold one product after another to consumers on a strict time schedule, often under the big and often unhappy eye of regulators. The government has proposed giving Microsoft different management structures for different products that could defuse concerns about how Microsoft operates in a modern, constantly evolving market.

The settlement was set to run until April, 2013, when the lawsuit was slated to close. However, Microsoft extended the settlement indefinitely after a potential deal with the U.S. government to settle the settlement failed to win approval.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division last year disclosed a trove of documents showing that in May 2015, representatives from Microsoft and the Justice Department met to discuss an amended settlement. That month, the Justice Department also said in a filing that officials had also discussed a potential settlement with the U.S. government.

The agency said then that it had about eight months to file a proposed agreement, and that “we have no desire to prolong litigation unnecessarily.” In the meantime, the agency said it was “reviewing documents and the status of the negotiations.”

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