"Side-step the patent whilst paying them off"?
Erm, did I miss something here? The point of the patent is to *get* paid for your invention. i4i said "you owe us this much". MS said "we're giving you nothing". Court said "MS, pay this much". At some point, MS and i4i will meet in the middle. If MS are smart, this will involve paying i4i a price which i4i are prepared to accept. If MS aren't smart, they'll dig their heels in and the court will beat them with a big stick until they *do* pay something.
And even on American lawyers' rates, I doubt Netscape used three-quarters of a billion on the lawsuit, so that represents a solid profit. Sure you've lost your user-base - but do you really want to own the most widely-used web browser, which has precisely zero income (because you're giving it away) and which still needs a team of developers employed (because there are still new features to implement)? Or would you rather have a tax-free three-quarters of a billion dollars in your back pocket which you can invest somewhere that'll turn a real profit? Hmm, tough call...