Microsoft's antitrust shackles taken off May 12

Thirteen years ago, Microsoft were in an intense legal battle against the US government. The Redmond software giant was accused of using its dominant position in the operating systems market in order to gain large market share in the web browser market with their flagship product, Internet Explorer.

Microsoft was said to be attempting to monopolize the web browser market by bundling IE with their operating system (Windows 98) which would cause browsers such as Netscape and Opera to lose huge amounts of market share (and perhaps even cause them to go bankrupt). For Netscape, that became a reality. However, Opera are today left with a smaller amount of market share than they could have had, if it had not been for Microsoft bundling the software together.

Microsoft fought back against the claim, demonstrating that removing Internet Explorer from Windows was not possible as it was a core component, and this would cause instability. This claim was later independently refuted by Shane Brooks who removed all references of Internet Explorer himself, and released a tool called IEradicator. 

The end result was a judge ruling that put restrictions on Microsoft that disallow the company from bundling products together to gain strategic advantages. This resulted in Microsoft releasing special versions of Windows -- Windows N -- which do not come with Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer (though these can be installed seperately).

Thirteen years later a federal judge has ruled that on May 12, 2011 the antitrust case will expire. Since 2002, U.S District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has dealt with the case and today said that "May 12 will close an important chapter in the history of antitrust law."

Stephen Houck, a representative for the California group plaintiffs said "We have proved that antitrust law, the underpinning of a free market democracy, is alive and well".

Many people have called for these antitrust ‘shackles’ to be placed on companies such as Apple for their tablet monopoly and Google for their search engine however no such lawsuit has appeared.

It appears with Windows 8 that Microsoft is making changes that were previously unprecedented as these shackles will be removed. Features such as Cloud Login would have previously faced issues, but with the court case out of the way, Microsoft is free to do as they please.

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