Microsoft’s settlement with Sun and ceding ground seems distinctly at odds with what the software giant’s business plan previously allowed. What’s happening here?

To most people, Microsoft’s image has long been blissfully uncomplicated: It’s a big, bad bully with so much money—$53 billion to be exact—that it is practically above the law. Even after the U.S. government’s celebrated antitrust victory in 2000, Microsoft escaped with just a slap on the wrist.

Now the EU is trying to take a whack. In March it fined Microsoft $611 million for antitrust violations dating back to the 1990s. But with the company’s virtually unlimited legal resources, it’s hard to see how it could end up paying the full fine.

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