Apple CEO Steve Jobs yesterday slammed the settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case as "unfair".

Jobs said: “We're baffled that a settlement imposed against Microsoft for breaking the law should allow, even encourage, them to unfairly make inroads into education - one of the few markets left where they don’t have monopoly power,”
The comments came as Apple delivered its reaction to Microsoft's proposed settlement of more than 100 outstanding private lawsuits. The settlement stands before the Baltimore courts, which must approve the deal, which offers Microsoft the chance to donate $1 billion of proprietary software and computers to US schools over five years.

An additional hearing wll be held on December 10 so that Microsoft can air its views on the settlement. Apple yesterday filed a brief outlining its objections to the settlement.

"Apple supports the idea of providing kids with technology, but we don't support this settlement," said George Riley, counsel for Apple, in court. He added that the proposed settlement constituted "a massive subsidy for the acquisition of Microsoft technology".

Boffin's blunder Also on Tuesday, the professor who calculated the damages to be covered by the settlement told the court he had underestimated the figure significantly because of a mathematical error. Following a morning court appearance at which he discussed a damages estimate of $2.1 billion, University of Washington economist Keith Leffler again came before the court in the afternoon to say the estimate should have been $5.15 billion.

Once rivals, Microsoft and Apple have been on good terms since 1997, when Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple at a crucial stage. This investment gave Apple the support it needed at a difficult time.

Analyst Rob Enderle of Giga Information Systems said he wasn’t surprised by Apple’s strong criticism of the deal. He said: “Apple is clearly the company that could be the most damaged by the proposal."

Jobs told MacCentral: "Today our schools have a choice, and to date they have chosen Apple around half of the time. We think our schools deserve to keep their power of choice, and that our kids deserve better than having to learn on old, refurbished Wintel computers."

Plaintiffs opposed to the settlement have until December 10 to respond in writing. Opponents of the settlement claim that rather than punishing Microsoft, the deal actually benefits the company, by allowing it to get its products to a whole new generation of computer users.

Computer and Communications Industry Association president Ed Black, disagrees with the proposal: "This settlement is letting someone who has legally been identified as a monopolist and (who has) engaged in serious misconduct off the hook," he said. "The fact that this remedy solidifies Microsoft's position as a monopolist is phenomenal and absurd."

Opponents are against the deal's stipulation that Microsoft donate software to schools not only because they fear that the company will gain a dominance in the market, trouncing competitors like Apple, but also because they claim that the monetary damage to the company is significantly reduced by enabling it to give retail products rather than cold, hard cash.