Microsoft agreed last weekend to settle a class-action antitrust lawsuit in North Carolina. As with California's lawsuit, the North Carolina suit arose after Microsoft's defeat in its historic antitrust trial, when the federal government accused the software giant of overcharging consumers for Windows and other products.
   Under terms of the agreement, Microsoft will set up an $89 million fund to reimburse North Carolina consumers and provide computer hardware and software to the state's poorest schools. Consumers who purchased computers with Microsoft OSs and/or word processing, spreadsheet, or office-productivity software between December 9, 1995, and December 31, 2002, are eligible to receive a $5 or $10 voucher that will be paid out of the fund. North Caroline consumers can use the vouchers toward the purchase of any computer hardware or software and will receive a refund in the mail after that purchase and can submit as many as five claims without any documentation. Microsoft will provide half of any unclaimed money to the poorest public schools in the state.
   At a court hearing Friday, Judge Ben Tennille said that he wants to hear from the state's Department of Education before approving the plan. Assuming the department approves the settlement, Microsoft will distribute the money by the end of 2003, lawyers for both sides said at the hearing.