Thoughts on the DOJ vs Google from someone who has been there

Brad Chase
5 min readNov 10, 2020

In 1999, as a senior Microsoft executive, I was a witness in the United States v. Microsoft: Anti-Trust Trial. I was more nervous testifying in that trial than I have ever been in my life. I was not sleeping well. The news cameras-CNN, Fox, MSNBC — followed me nearly everywhere. While sitting in the courtroom waiting for my turn in the hotseat, I watched two disparate, seemingly unrelated scenes: the judge falling asleep during the trial, and my colleagues getting grilled on the stand. When my turn as a witness came, the judge managed to stay awake, and, despite my exhaustion, my testimony seemed to go over well. A story said the attorney the DOJ used, David Boies, seemed “flustered” when cross-examining me. Not that it mattered since Microsoft lost the case. A friend of mine called me after my testimony and said, “Brad, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you just scored three touchdowns. The bad news is that your team is losing 56–21.”

My suppressed and depressed memories of that trial have resurfaced because of the recent announcement that the DOJ is suing Google. What lessons could be drawn from the Microsoft trial of over two decades ago that are still relevant today? There are more than you might think.

Looking back at the issues at the core of that “tying” case, Microsoft using its “monopoly” with Windows to gain an advantage with its browser, Internet Explorer, seems bizarre, almost quaint now. An operating system without a browser? Inconceivable! Just imagine if Windows, the Mac OS, Android, iOS etc didn’t include their own browsers. .The Chromebook is basically just a browser wrapped in hardware. Sure, Microsoft was trying to compete, and Windows was an advantage, but not an insurmountable one since any user could download a browser. Microsoft always said its Windows advantage would be challenged by technology changes and that turned out to be truer than Microsoft could even imagine. Now Windows is just one of many operating systems people use. Smartphones, just smaller powerful computers, are around 5x the shipments of traditional PCs. Even Microsoft is focusing more on its cloud platform than Windows.

I expected the DOJ would treat the Google case like the Microsoft one. Google, with 90% market share, should not be able to tie search deals…

Brad Chase

Author Strategy First, former senior Microsoft executive