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Why the DOJ’s case against Apple has everything to do with Microsoft in the ’90s

Illustration of the iMessage icon behind the Department of Justice seal.
The DOJ says it paved the way for Apple’s rise — now it wants to check the company’s power. | Image: Cath Virginia / The Verge

Inside the US Department of Justice’s 88-page antitrust complaint against Apple, there’s a cool reminder to the company: you’re here because we paved the way.

According to the DOJ, its antitrust case against Microsoft cleared the way for Apple — then teetering on bankruptcy — to launch its breakout success: the iPod. Decades and trillions of dollars later, Apple is in the hot seat. And because time is a flat circle, it’s facing an antitrust case built directly on that 1999 case against Microsoft.

To better understand the DOJ’s case against Apple, it helps to understand United States v. Microsoft. If you were a teen in the ’90s (or maybe not yet born — in which case, good for you), you may have missed this landmark antitrust case, but…

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