California Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado signed off on the agreement late Wednesday, according to the law firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew, which fought the class-action case.
The dollar amount of the settlement--by far the largest of any of the states with which Microsoft has settled--is "fair, reasonable, and adequate compensation," Alvarado wrote in his 31-page order.
He also noted that California residents got the best deal, with benefits on a per-license basis exceeding that of other states by as much as five or six times the average. Vouchers ranging from $5 to $29 will be issued to claimants.
Now that the settlement is final, buyers of Microsoft operating systems and certain Microsoft applications--whether preinstalled on a computer or bought separately--who purchased them between Feb. 18, 1995, and Dec. 15, 2001, can apply for vouchers. As with other settlements, California's specifies that a portion of the unclaimed amount will go to the state's schools, which will receive vouchers to buy computer hardware, software, training, or wiring.
Microsoft has been on a legal roll of late, settling with two other states--Vermont and Minnesota--just last week.
Residents of those states and others that have come to agreements with Microsoft must wait, however, for final approval, just as Californians have done. When Microsoft originally announced the settlement in January 2003, for instance, it anticipated that final approval would come late that summer or early that fall.
The delay was because of the large number of claims received, and an ensuing extension for submitting claims. About 600,000 have filed for vouchers so far.
Residents can obtain claim forms on the Microsoft Web site or by calling 800-960-5660.