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RealTime IT News

Microsoft More Than Halfway Through Anti-Trust Suits

Microsoft got preliminary settlement approval from the courts over its ongoing anti-trust case regarding the Windows operating system, lawyers for the software company said Tuesday.

Windows users and schools in Kansas and the District of Columbia will get $32 million and $6.2 million, respectively, in vouchers to purchase vendor-neutral software and hardware. The figure, Microsoft lawyers said in a conference, is determined by population.

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, said settlement plans for North Carolina, Tennessee, and the Dakotas have been submitted and await judges' approval. While he wouldn't go into a breakdown in numbers, he said the four states would receive an aggregate amount of $161.8 million.

"We've worked hard in the course of the past few months, and indeed over the past few years, to address these legal challenges and to move forward to build more constructive relationships with the government and others in industry," he said. "We obviously have some big anti-trust issues that remain, but we've made important progress."

The largest settlement, and one Microsoft doesn't expect to pay again, is the one it reached with the State of California for $1.1 billion in January, after four years in the courts.

The announcement Tuesday marks the halfway mark in the Redmond, Wash., software company's quest to resolve the anti-trust class-action lawsuits filed by nine states and the District of Columbia. Officials said they were still working on a resolution for Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

All told, Smith said the company will shell out a total of $1.55 billion to settle the 10 cases out of court.

He also addressed other litigation facing the company, saying lawsuits from the European Union and Sun Microsystems are proceeding, if slowly.

Microsoft's long-standing feud with Sun, over Windows XP incompatibility with Java, has resulted in last year's $1 billion lawsuit. Smith said there is no end in sight for this particular lawsuit, and underscores the need by Microsoft executives to communicate with peers in the industry.

"Certainly, an important lesson for us out of this overall experience is the importance of building a constructive and collaborative relationship with companies throughout our industry, and I would certainly include Sun Microsystems in that group," Smith said. "We hope there will come a day in the future when the relationship between the two companies is more constructive than it is today."

In the area of compliance, Microsoft officials say they are doing everything required of them, despite some negative feedback from the European Union over its protocol licenses. Government officials in Brussels have said the limited success of the settlement measure in the States would prompt some more thought for a different measure in Europe.

In the U.S., there has been a decided lack of interest in buying into Microsoft's protocols, whether because of a pricing or policy issue.

"What the consent decree requires us to do, is we have to offer licenses to our protocols on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms," Smith said. "That doesn't mean we have the duty to extort or enforce people to get them to sign.