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Microsoft Settles Product Pricing Class Action Lawsuits:
Does It Endanger Our Children?

Editorial
by Membrane.com Staff Writer

The following editorial is based on the Microsoft press release attached below.

So, let me get this straight... Microsoft is found to be a big, bad monopoly by the US Dept. of Justice. (click here for more info.) As a penalty, we are going to help them gain a stronghold in public schools? We are going to make them give their inferior, proprietary and upgrade dependent software to schools?

What... have we all gone mad?

Next, will convicted murders be forced to give their guns to schools?

Does anyone know how we can stop such an atrocity?

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Microsoft Corporate Press Release
from Microsoft.com website

Microsoft Settles Product Pricing Class Action Lawsuits

Company Will Provide More Than $1 Billion in Cash and Software to Schools Serving America's Most Economically Disadvantaged Children

REDMOND, Wash. -- Nov. 20, 2001 -- Microsoft Corp. today announced that it has reached a nationwide settlement of more than 100 class action lawsuits that alleged Microsoft products were overpriced. Under the proposed settlement, Microsoft will provide more than $1 billion in cash, training, support and software to help make computer technology more accessible to public schools serving nearly 7 million of America's most economically disadvantaged children.

Details of the five-year education program are outlined in a Settlement Agreement signed by the parties on Monday, which will be filed with the Federal District Court of Maryland later today. The program, if accepted by the Court, will provide cash, computer hardware, software, technical assistance and training to over 12,500 schools and more than 400,000 teachers who work in those schools. A public hearing on the agreement is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27th.

"We are pleased to reach a solution that will benefit millions of America's most economically disadvantaged children and thousands of public schools with the greatest needs, and also will enable everyone to move beyond costly and unnecessary litigation," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "Just like the recent settlement of the federal antitrust case with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine state Attorneys General, we believe this is a fair and reasonable solution that will benefit consumers, the high-tech industry, and the overall U.S. economy. We remain hopeful that the remaining state Attorneys General will join these settlement efforts."

"This is an innovative and visionary settlement that resolves these complex lawsuits by providing great benefits to public schools," said Michael Hausfeld of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, one of the attorneys for the nationwide settlement class.

"I've been fighting the digital divide for the last ten years. It has always been two steps forward and two steps back. The digital divide has just collapsed. This new program is a phenomenal gift to all economically challenged children and families in America. It gives us a quantum leap forward in achieving technological equity," said Anthony Amato, Superintendent of Public Schools in Hartford, Connecticut.

"Speaking as a state superintendent of education, I can tell you that this program will bring extraordinary positive educational benefits to thousands of disadvantaged students in our state alone, and to millions of students across the nation," said Dr. Terry Bergeson, Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington State.

"Microsoft has always delivered great software at very competitive prices. While we believe we would have prevailed in these lawsuits, we are pleased to put them behind us and greatly improve public education at the same time," said Tom Burt, Microsoft deputy general counsel. "This settlement allows Microsoft to focus on the future, on innovation and building great technology."

The class action lawsuits were originally filed at both the state and federal level. All of the federal cases were consolidated in the Federal District Court of Maryland. Many state court cases and many of the claims in the federal litigation were dismissed based on a controlling U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Today's settlement agreement, if approved by the Court, could lead to the nationwide settlement of all of the more than 100 class action cases against Microsoft.

If the proposed settlement is approved by the Court, Microsoft will recognize a pre-tax charge of approximately $550 million in the current fiscal quarter ending December 31, 2001. Microsoft will provide additional detail on the financial impact of the proposal later this week.

Under the proposed settlement, Microsoft's new educational programs would be in addition to the company's long-standing corporate philanthropy efforts. Last year, Microsoft gave more than $215 million in cash and software to nearly 5,000 nonprofit organizations to improve technology access in underserved communities, and expand and diversify the technology workforce.

Key Aspects of the Settlement

The settlement agreement provides for a five-year program during which Microsoft will make computer technology resources available to all K-12 public schools in the United States and its territories at which 70% or more of the students are eligible for federal meal assistance. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 14 percent of U.S. schools meet this criterion.

"Through funding programs such as the E-Rate, many of these schools have built networks and Internet connections to match any school's, but they haven't had the resources to upgrade the technology their students and teachers use every day," said Mark East, worldwide general manager of Microsoft's Education Solutions Group. "This settlement will put world-class technology tools and training where it's most needed and help ensure that all children -- today and in the future -- have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential."

Key elements of the program include the following:

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software -- any time, any place and on any device.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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