Today, tech giants such as Facebook and Google have been put on notice, Gates said in an interview with Axios. "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on," he said. When asked if he sees that happening now, he replied, "Oh, absolutely."

Microsoft's own battle with regulators lasted 21 years. It narrowly avoided being split up after using its Windows operating system to smother competing products on the web like Netscape's Navigator. Regulators extracted a consent decree that forced Microsoft to makes its products compatible with other products, and not shut out potential competitors.

More dramatic, however, was the change in company culture. "Since the antitrust suit, they have become much more cautious and much less aggressive," observed Michael Cusumano, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, in 2011. Only recently has Microsoft found its footing in the new technology landscape.

There is a "don't piss government off" subtext to this, most definitely...

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