Microsoft knowingly deceived customers with Vista?

Written by Tim Smalley

February 13, 2008 | 07:13

Tags: #action #boost #capable #class #customers #law #operating #os #sales #suit #system #vista #windows

Companies: #microsoft

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed last year against Microsoft—for incorrectly labelling machines as "Windows Vista Capable"—have accused the software giant of knowingly lying to consumers to boost sales of the company's latest operating system.

Microsoft decided that, in order to boost sales of Windows XP computers after it announced that Windows Vista would be delayed, it would sell machines sporting "Windows Vista Capable" logos, with the selling point being that these computers were able to be updated to Windows Vista once it was released.

The problem was that machines that displayed this logo were only able to use the entry level version, Windows Vista Home Basic, meaning that many of the most widely-advertised features—such as Aero Glass, Flip3D and Media Center—were unavailable to consumers buying PCs showing the logo.

The suit—that plaintiffs are trying to promote to class-action status—claims that many of the machines bearing the logo were not fully "Vista Capable" as they were not powerful enough to support Vista's advanced features. Indeed, while the contents of the emails remain sealed, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter was at the hearing and recorded some of them.

"Even a piece of junk will qualify" for the "Windows Vista Capable" designation, wrote one employee in an email read out by the Plaintiffs. Mike Nash, a vice president in the Windows Product Management group, wrote in an email, "I PERSONALLY got burnt. ... Are we seeing this from a lot of customers? ... I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine."

Jim Allchin, then the co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, said, "We really botched this. ... You guys have to do a better job with our customers," in another email.

David Bowermaster, a spokesman for Microsoft, naturally played down the significance of the emails, stating, "The e-mails cited in today's hearing are isolated, and in many instances, outdated and really just snippets of a broad and thorough review that took place during the development of the Windows Vista Capable program."

He claimed that, "Throughout this review, Microsoft employees raised concerns and addressed issues with the aim of making this program better for our partners and more valuable for consumers. In the end, we believe we achieved both objectives."

Microsoft's legal team also pointed out that the company had a separate "Premium Ready" sticker programme, which indicated that a computer was able to run fully-featured versions of the OS. Steven Rummage, a lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine representing Microsoft, argued that the lawsuit didn't merit class-action status because each customer who bought a "Windows Vista Capable" machine had different information at the time of purchase. "We know that there was a wealth of information available to the public," he said. "They have not presented the court with a single document showing what people were told."

Jeffrey Thomas, the plaintiffs' lawyer, countered Rummage's argument stating that the class was united in that all individuals buying "Windows Vista Capable" PCs "did not get what they paid for."

The judge for the case, Marsha Pechman, concluded proceedings by saying she would issue a ruling that will determine whether or not the case has class-action status within ten days.

Do you think Microsoft is in hot water here? Let us know your thoughts on the case in the forums.
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