Seattle Microsoft said Tuesday that it will give thousands of the nation's poorest schools more than $1 billion in cash and services to settle dozens of private class-action antitrust lawsuits.
The proposed settlement would pay for teacher training, technical support, refurbished computers and copies of Microsoft's most popular software, such as Windows and Office.
The company said the material would be disbursed over five years at more than 12,500 schools serving 7 million children.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the settlement would avoid a long, expensive court fight while helping "some of the most disadvantaged students in the country."
Critics of the plan, including some plaintiffs' lawyers, said it did nothing to punish Microsoft. One called it "pathetic."
The software giant would admit no wrongdoing under the settlement, which must be approved by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in Baltimore. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.
The private lawsuits allege that Microsoft abused its monopoly power in the software market and overcharged millions of computer buyers. Most of the suits were filed after the government filed its landmark antitrust suit against the software company in 1998.
Shares of Microsoft were down $1.14 to close at $65.40 Tuesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.