In 1997 the U.S. Justice Dept. accused Microsoft of violating a 1995 antitrust agreement, because the Windows 95 operating system required consumers to load Microsoft's Internet browser—thus giving Microsoft a monopolistic advantage over other browser manufacturers. In late 1999 the trial judge decided that Microsoft was a monopoly that had stifled competition, and the following June he ordered the breakup of Microsoft into two companies, a decision that Microsoft appealed. Although the appeals court overturned (2001) the breakup, it agreed that Microsoft had stifled competition and returned the case to a lower court for resolution. Subsequently the government and the company agreed to a settlement that placed some restrictions on Microsoft but would not essentially diminish the advantage its operating system monopoly gave the software giant; several states contested the settlement, but a judge approved it in 2002. In the European Union the company has also faced scrutiny over anticompetitive concerns, and there it has several times been fined hundreds of millions of euros.
Gates, who was long chairman of Microsoft, is one of the wealthiest persons in the world. In 1994 he founded the William H. Gates Foundation, to focus on health issues in developing countries, and in 1997 established the Gates Library Foundation, later renamed the Gates Learning Foundation, to provide education assistance. In 1999 the former was renamed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the latter was merged (2000) into it. In 2008 Gates, while remaining as company chairman, withdrew from daily participation in the running of Microsoft in order to devote more time to the foundation, but in 2014 he returned to a more active role at Microsoft, becoming an adviser to the company's chief executive while also stepping down as chairman. He resigned from Microsoft's board in 2020. He has written The Road Ahead (1995, with N. Myhrvold and P. Rinearson) and Business @ the Speed of Thought (1999).
See J. Wallace, Hard Drive (1992).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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