Next Stop, Chicago

When Microsoft Corp. agreed on July 15 to sign off on a consent decree negotiated with the Justice Dept., Chairman William H. Gates III got out from under an antitrust cloud that has followed his software maker for more than four years--without casting much of a shadow. The deal ends a U.S. investigation into Microsoft's allegedly anticompetitive practices and closes a monopoly probe by the European Commission. And because it focuses on just three narrow issues, the settlement will do little if anything to cramp Gates's style.

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