Microsoft Corp. on April 15 announced a tentative settlement of a class-action lawsuit in Florida that would allow the state's neediest schools to buy hardware and software from any vendor and to purchase professional development services, including advanced technology training, leadership development for school administrators, or curriculum development and instructional resources for educators.

The pending settlement still needs final court approval, so schools aren't likely to begin receiving benefits until 2004 at the earliest.

Needy schools eventually would benefit, but the settlement would mainly affect Florida residents, providing up


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