Microsoft Steps Back

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WASHINGTON: Microsoft has stepped back from the brink. That's the news from Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's courtroom where just a week ago the software firm was vigorously defending the entwining of Internet Explorer with Windows 95. Now it has pledged to separate the two, avoiding the risk of a $1 million-a-day fine.

"Microsoft has agreed to immediately make available the most up-to-date, fully functional version of Windows 95 without forcing computer manufacturers to takes its browser as well," said Joel Klein, the trust-busting assistant attorney general. "This will increase consumer choice and will also send precisely the right message to the market."

Beyond that, details of the settlement are sketchy. But it does seem Bill Gates has come to his senses and realized how close his company came to being found in contempt by an unsympathetic Jackson.

Gates may have retreated from this battle, but he hasn't surrendered in the war: Coming next, on April 21, is Microsoft's appeal against the judge's unbundling order.