The judge who tried to break up Microsoft in 2000 passes away

The man who at one point ruled that Microsoft must be split into two companies, only to have that decision overruled, has passed away. Thomas Penfield Jackson was the first federal judge who presided in the court case between Microsoft and the Department of Justice in 2000.

The New York Times reports that Jackson died at his home in Connecticut from cancer at the age of 76. His most famous case by far was the Microsoft trial, which the DOJ claimed was violating anti-trust rules with its Windows operating system.

In 2000, Judge Jackson ruled that Microsoft must be split into two companies; one company would handle Windows and the other would run the rest of Microsoft's software products. However, it was discovered later that Jackson was interviewed by journalists during the trial and before he rendered his verdict.

Jackson's comments to those reporters included his opinion of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, which Jackson said had "a Napoleonic concept of himself". In 2001, the Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that Jackson's statements to the press gave the impression of bias and removed him from the case, while also overturning his ruling. Later, the DOJ decided to settle with Microsoft, rather than insist on its breakup. The final settlement was made official in 2002.

Ironically, the idea of Microsoft as a monopoly has slowly gone away, thanks in part to the resurgence of Apple and the rise of other large tech companies like Google, Facebook and others. Indeed, some analysts would like to see Microsoft sell off parts of its business, like the Xbox and Bing divisions, not because they think Microsoft is a monopoly but because they think it would help the company become more profitable in the long run.

Source: New York Times | Image via New York Times

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