Microsoft is close to settling numerous private antitrust suits against it, and public schools may benefit.
Citing academics and attorneys close to the discussions, The Wall Street Journals online edition reported Tuesday that Microsoft was putting the finishing touches Monday evening on an agreement for the company to provide software and computers to more than 14,000 of the poorest schools in the U.S. over a five-year period.
Estimated at a cost of approximately $1.1 billion, this payment would satisfy "most of its pending private class-action lawsuits" the Journal said.
The agreement would have to be approved by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in Baltimore, who is overseeing the myriad class-action suits from around the nation that have been consolidated in his court.
The Journal reported that the unusual proposal came from one of the lead plaintiffs lawyers in the case, Michael Hausfeld, who concluded that the estimated 65 million members of the plaintiff class would receive as little as $10 in a settlement or court victory. After administrative costs and attorney fees even that small amount would disappear.
The settlement would provide, among other things, training for students and teachers in popular Microsoft software, reconditioned hardware, and education in repair of computers and networks.
Under the terms of the deal, Hausfeld and his fellow attorneys would receive their fees from a separate payment by Microsoft to be determined by the judge.
The Journals online story noted that one of the side effects of the settlement would be to solidify Microsofts hold on the student computer market, which plaintiffs lawyers shrugged off as an inescapable fact of the marketplace.