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Mac OS X refund suit gets preliminary nod

A judge grants preliminary approval to a settlement that would allow some owners of Apple's Mac OS X to receive a refund.

A judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement that would allow some Mac OS X owners to get a refund.

Apple Computer had already reached a tentative agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed that the company had failed to fully support Mac OS X on some G3-based Macs. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge gave preliminary approval to the settlement at a hearing last month.

Under the terms of the deal, owners of certain older Macs can get a refund if they return their copy of Mac OS X or, if they want to keep Mac OS X, they can obtain a coupon for $25 off of a $99 purchase at the Apple Store. Apple also agreed to pay $350,000 to King & Ferlauto, the law firm that brought the suit.

"I think it's a fair deal," said attorney Thomas Ferlauto, who filed the lawsuit in January 2002 on behalf of himself and other Mac owners. The suit claimed that Apple had promised that OS X would be "fully optimized" to run on all G3 machines and that such optimization was not done. As a result of failing to write the necessary drivers, the suit said, performance on older G3s was degraded "so severely that OS X is rendered an unrealistic option."

Apple denied those claims in court filings but said it was willing to settle in order to avoid the legal costs of continuing to fight them.

This week, Apple posted a link on its main home page to the terms of the settlement, as required by the settlement. The company is also required to send notice of the proposed deal to registered users and take out ads in Macworld and USA Today.

The settlement would apply to people who bought early iMacs (Bondi Blue and fruit-colored models) and older iBooks; the first PowerBook G3 models released (through the one that had a bronze keyboard); the first three Power Mac G3 models; and the Power Mac G3 all-in-one, introduced in April 1998. The machines must have been purchased on or before May 15, 2003.

Those affected have until a Jan. 26 court hearing to object to the deal or to opt out so that they can pursue their own legal action. Consumers also have the option of not objecting and not filing a claim if they are satisfied with OS X. Assuming the deal gets final approval, a second round of notices will be issued, and customers would then be able to file claims.

Ferlauto had originally sought to force Apple to develop a DVD movie player for all G3 Macs as well as to compel the company to support several older graphics cards that were used in early G3 models. The suit also sought damages for those customers who bought Macs that performed worse when running OS X than when running Mac OS 9.

When Apple introduced Mac OS X in March 2001, the operating system did not fully support DVD playback and CD burning. Apple later added DVD playback with version 10.1 but did not support all G3 models.