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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios.

The government's attempt 20 years ago to split up Microsoft failed, and sanctions didn't break its hold on the desktop, but many of Windows' current challenges stem from how the company reacted to its years of fighting regulators around the world.

Why it matters: Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple all face threats from regulators. Even if the companies win those conflicts, just fighting the battle can put them at a disadvantage.

The big picture: The direct consequences of antitrust action rarely threaten tech companies, but, as Microsoft's history shows, just defending against them can distract a company, causing it to lose its edge in product development and its radar for big waves of industry change.

Flashback: One giant bone of contention in Microsoft's battle with antitrust authorities had to do with the bundling of browsers and applications with its dominant operating system.

  • When the mobile revolution occurred, Apple and Google bundled everything they had into iOS and Android, including their own browser, apps and app stores. Microsoft, by contrast, was already chastened by the time the iPhone arrived, not to mention forced to divide its time between building products and dealing with regulators.

Yes, but: Other companies that chose to placate regulators rather than fight them were less distracted — but still not guaranteed to catch the next industry wave.

  • Chipmaker Intel was quick to settle with regulators whenever it was charged with abusing its similarly dominant position in the market for PC processors. That helped it more smoothly navigate its days of dominance. But, like Microsoft, Intel largely missed out on mobile.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft debuts new Surface hardware

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled updates to its Surface line, including laptops, convertible tablets and an improved versions of its Android-based dual screen Surface Duo.

Why it matters: The new devices come ahead of Windows 11's official launch on Oct. 5.

Tech firms' nightmare: Vanishing green cards

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Thousands of green cards are about to go to waste, leaving Google, Microsoft and other tech companies fuming — and pushing the Biden administration to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Why it matters: Tech workers have waited years for green cards that will grant them permanent legal status in the U.S. — but because of pandemic-related processing delays, they will have to wait even longer.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.