Microsoft, Be reach settlement

Microsoft is settling a $US23.3 million anti-trust lawsuit brought last year by defunct operating system maker Be Inc., which alleged that the software giant had illegally thwarted distribution of Be's operating system.

The BeOS emerged in the mid-1990s and promised superior digital media handling capabilities. The company attempted to thrive by getting PC makers to offer its operating system on dual-boot systems, which are PCs loaded with two or more operating systems that users could launch at start-up.

In its 2002 lawsuit, Be alleged that Microsoft had entered into anti-competitive agreements with PC makers, effectively blocking its effort to get its system sold alongside Windows. Microsoft denied the charge.

The lawsuit, which is pending in US District Court in Maryland, was settled without any admission of wrongdoing by Microsoft. The exact terms of the settlement would remain confidential, Microsoft said.

The BeOS never developed a measurable percentage of market share, "but it's not to say there are no users. There was a user community for the BeOS, and they were very supportive of the environment," an analyst at IDC, Al Gillen, said. Be was bought by handheld vendor, Palm, in 2001. The settlement ends one legal threat to Microsoft, but the company continues to face anti-trust actions brought by the US and the states, and in Europe. Massachusetts is the only remaining party in the US case, originally brought by 18 states and the Clinton administration. State officials are seeking a tougher remedy then the one approved by US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last year. A hearing on that case is now scheduled for November.

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