Apple CEO Steve Jobs has for the third time attacked Microsoft's proposals to settle over 100 private lawsuits against it.

The class-action plaintiffs allege Microsoft abused its monopoly position by overcharging for its software.

Microsoft is proposing to hand over the equivalent of $1 billion over five years to the poorest 14,000 US schools. This includes a small training budget, the provision of reconditioned PCs and the provision of software to Microsoft's claimed value of $830 million. Jobs called the proposal "a massive subsidy for the adoption of Microsoft technology".

Jobs remains heavily critical of Microsoft's terms, stressing that the solution gives Microsoft better access to the education market, and that the paper value of the settlement does not reflect the true value of what Microsoft is offering.

The Dow Jones Newswire reports that Jobs believes the settlement "compels schools to adopt Microsoft technology".

Apple suggests most educators agree this is wrong. Jobs said: "Any settlement must guarantee that schools have the freedom to choose." He goes on to argue that the company should pay its penalty in cash, not software.

Jobs alleges the software element of the proposals "will cost Microsoft only pennies on the dollar". He added: "A $1 billion cash penalty represents less than 3 per cent of Microsoft's $36 billion cash hoard."

In a recent critical statement, the Apple CEO 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.”

In the face of the criticism, Microsoft slightly amended its proposal, offering a management structure to oversee disbursement of the deal that includes non-Microsoft employees for the first time.

Apple, meanwhile, insists that the only equable, punitive solution that maintains a competitive market in the US education sector is for Microsoft to hand over $1 billion in cash to the control of an independently controlled foundation.

The judge in the case, Frederick Motz, is listening to Apple's arguments. A Reuters report quotes the judge, as saying: "If in the solution there are structural biases, however good the intention, then that's something that's got to be of concern." The judge last week also admitted that he is unsure what he will do if called on to resolve the case.

Judge Motz sent all parties involved to an independent arbitrator last week. Talks there are understood to be ongoing, though no agreement has so far been reached. Microsoft denies it overcharged for its software.

In related news, Macworld reader Christian Loweth has built The Microsoft Collection, a Web site containing links to reputable Microsoft-related stories since 1994.