The federal judge overseeing a batch of private class-action lawsuits against Microsoft has postponed until mid-January his decision on the proposed settlement of the lawsuits.

US district court judge Frederick Motz said he will not decide whether to grant the deal approval until after January 10, in order to allow Microsoft and the plaintiffs' attorneys more time to negotiate a compromise settlement with lawyers representing class-action lawsuits not included under Motz' jurisdiction.

Microsoft announced in November a settlement with lawyers representing more than 100 class-action lawsuits accusing Microsoft of abusing its monopoly position to overcharge consumers for its software. Under the terms of that deal, Microsoft would donate to disadvantaged schools hardware and software valued by the company in excess of $1 billion.

That settlement, however, attracted criticism from Microsoft's industry rivals, who say it will expand Microsoft's dominant position and deprive schools of choice among competing products. Also opposing the settlement are attorneys for plaintiffs in several class-action cases being pursued outside Motz' jurisdiction. Those lawyers argue that the current settlement proposal could hurt their clients' cases.

Judge Motz initially said he would announce a preliminary decision on the settlement offer in mid-December. Since then, however, the case has become mired in courtroom drama, prompting Motz to schedule additional hearings and forcing amendments to the initial settlement proposal.