West Virginia will drop its appeal against last year’s ruling in the federal antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., at the same time settling a class action lawsuit over unfair competition, in a settlement worth a total of US$21 million, Microsoft said in a recent statement. To settle class action consumer lawsuits Microsoft will offer West Virginia consumers $18 million in vouchers for hardware, software or professional development services, to be spent on Microsoft or non-Microsoft products, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler.

Half of any unclaimed vouchers will be given to West Virginia’s most needy public schools, he added. In addition, the company will give vouchers for hardware, software or services worth a further $1 million to state schools, and vouchers worth $700,000 to the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General to be distributed at his discretion. Microsoft recently settled similar class action lawsuit in North Carolina in a deal worth $89 million. By dropping its appeal against, West Virginia leaves Massachusetts as the only state still fighting District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s November ruling in the federal antitrust against Microsoft.

Microsoft rips into Mass. in filing

Microsoft Corp. on recently ripped into Massachusetts, the lone hold-out state in the software giant’s antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, saying the state is pursuing sanctions that would benefit Microsoft competitors, not consumers.

Massachusetts continues to pursue “extreme” antitrust remedies, Microsoft lawyers wrote in a brief filed with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In the brief, Microsoft argues that Massachusetts has largely ignored a U.S. District Court’s findings and instead repeats its own proposed remedies (such as unbundling its operating system from all middleware products) in a brief it filed in May. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office didn’t have an immediate comment.

United to offer e-mail on US flights

United Airlines Inc. is set to announce that it will begin offering in-flight e-mail services on all its U.S. domestic flights by the end of the year, according to a U.K. representative for the company. The announcement will represent a first by a U.S. airline, and marks a strong move by United to woo business fliers and drum up added revenue in the face of strong competition by low-cost competitors.

The new e-mail capabilities build on the JetConnect service already provided on United flights by Verizon Communication Inc.’s Airfone subsidiary. JetConnect currently offers news and weather as well as instant messaging and text messaging for US$5.99 a flight. The JetConnect service will boast added e-mail capabilities by the end of the year, at a cost of US$15.98 a flight plus US$0.10 per kilobyte of data over 2 kilobytes, the representative said. The e-mail service is being provided by Tenzing Communications Inc.

Australia’s biometric passport project

Australia is one of 20 countries that must have a biometric passport in place by October 2004 to maintain its visa-waiver status with the U.S. With the deadline looming, the federal government has made available a further US$1.98 million to pilot the facial recognition project which is in addition to an initial US$1.98 million made available the year before.

Australia’s largest biometric project is being undertaken by the passports branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in partnership with Unisys Corp. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. introduced border protection measures under the Patriots Act which enforces biometric requirements from countries such as Australia which has visa waiver status. The passport image will be embedded with an identifier, namely a smartchip that will contain passport details and other information.

HP to ship antispam software on new PCs

Saying it wants to protect children from inappropriate material and give customers a more “positive” computing experience, Hewlett-Packard Co. will bundle antispam software with its new desktop PCs. The company will preload interMute Inc.’s SpamSubtract Pro product on new HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario PCs, according to a statement from Braintree, Massachusetts-based interMute.

Customers who purchase the new PCs will be able to use the spam blocking software free for 30 days with the option to purchase a full license for the software for US$29.95 from the interMute Web site. Customers who do not purchase a license will continue to be able to use the product to quarantine spam with obscene words and images. However, commercial solicitations would no longer be flagged, an interMute spokesman said.

MS employee busted for stealing software

A former Microsoft Corp. employee was arrested recently for allegedly ordering software using Microsoft’s internal purchasing system and selling it for personal gain. Richard Gregg, 43, of Bellevue, Washington, is accused of ordering software worth US$17 million and selling it or otherwise disposing of it and keeping the proceeds, instead of using the software for business purposes, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington said in a statement.

Gregg was terminated by the software maker in December last year, at the same time another Microsoft employee, Daniel Feussner, was fired and arrested on similar charges. Feussner was accused of selling US$9 million worth of Microsoft software for his own profit. Facing a punishment of as much as 20 years in jail, he died on Feb. 7 after ingesting antifreeze, according to published reports.

Peoplesoft, JDE to speed up acquisition

PeopleSoft Inc. is amending its agreement to purchase J.D. Edwards & Co., in an effort to speed up the transaction in the face of moves by rival Oracle Corp. to buy PeopleSoft. The amended agreement, announced recently, is valued at approximately US$1.75 billion in cash and newly issued PeopleSoft stock. The prior agreement was an all-stock deal valued at $1.7 billion.

Under the new deal, J.D. Edwards shareholders will be able to elect to receive cash or stock for their J.D. Edwards shares, based on the June 13 closing price of PeopleSoft’s common stock of $16.92 a share. PeopleSoft said the exchange offer will commence shortly. Upon completion of the exchange offer, all remaining shares of J.D. Edwards will be acquired in a second-step merger. The companies expect the transaction to close in the third-quarter of this year.