At Microsoft's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle yesterday, company executives cheerfully announced that Microsoft's antitrust woes are largely over, despite the fact that nine US states still oppose its proposed settlement. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, CEO Steve Ballmer, President Rick Belluzzo, and other executives took turns explaining that the company's biggest challenges are now no longer legal but rather specific market segments, such as the online world and handheld devices.

"For many years, I've hoped to be able to get up and say what I can say this morning, which is that we have come to a settlement with the Department of Justice in the antitrust case," Gates said to applause. Gates did mention that the company still has to face several state attorneys general in court, however. Ballmer was less interested in the legal issues than the company's competitors, however, noting that AOL Time Warner, Palm, and IBM are more serious foes than the states.

But Ballmer also noted that the company's monopoly and market power will serve it well in its fight against such competitors. "We're starting from what I call a very, very enviable position," he said.