Educators generally could play the role of disinterested observers as the world's largest software maker wrestled with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over the release of Windows 98.

At least three major factors accounted for that: First, most schools had never planned to be among the first to switch to the new version of Microsoft's PC operating system (OS). Second, those with plans to buy new hardware right away were protected by guarantees offered by four of the largest computer manufacturers. And, third, many schools were relying on network operating systems rather than...

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