Depending on the day of the week, Microsoft is the most valuable company in the world, or at least in the top 5. It’s one of GAFAM, the five “big tech” companies presumptively labeled as “digital gatekeepers” to which new ex-ante antitrust rules will apply under the EU’s forthcoming Digital Markets Act. Founded in 1975, it’s the oldest of the Big Five (one year older than Apple), but has had a much longer history of being a target of antitrust enforcement.
Back between Microsoft out-manoeuvring IBM to become the dominant platform for personal computers, and before the dot com bubble crashed, Microsoft faced its first real antitrust issues. In August of 2000, the European Commission sent Microsoft a Statement of Objections, a preliminary finding of anticompetitive conduct, which led to an (at the time record-breaking) fine of over $500 million and an appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. The judgment in that appeal set the precedent for EU competition law in the digital sector. In this episode we do a deep dive into the case, setting the stage for everything that comes next.