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A lawsuit against Microsoft, alleging it intentionally deceived by labeling underpowered PCs "Vista Capable" wins class action status

DailyTech reported earlier this month on a pending lawsuit, which sought class action against Microsoft for allegedly knowingly deceiving consumers by labeling underpowered computers "Vista Capable", when the computers could only run a bare bones version of Vista lacking many features.  The suit alleged that Microsoft's practice was designed to increase sales at the user's expense.

While the suit seemed somewhat tenuous due to the extensive easy to reach online documentation on system specifics needed and levels of capability, it was strengthened by leaked internal emails from Microsoft which painted a picture of many Microsoft employees and executives venting frustration about the program, which they believed was inaccurate

Several employees claimed to be personally affected by the claims, and said the management involved, "really botched this."  Wrote one Microsoft employee, Mike Nash, "I PERSONALLY got burnt ... Are we seeing this from a lot of customers? ... I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine."

A federal judge,
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, granted the suit class action status, but slightly narrowed its scope.  She ruled that a class action could proceed with the intent of determining whether Microsoft's stickers caused an artificial demand for PCs during the 2006 holiday shopping season, and inflated the prices of computers which couldn't be upgraded to Windows Vista, when it released in January 2007.

Ironically neither of the two people filing the original lawsuit had took part in Microsoft's upgrade program.  However, despite not purchasing Windows Vista, they argued that they were still hurt as they had to pay a higher price for their PCs while getting a computer that could only run a basic version of Windows Vista.

The Judge did say that if the pair added a named plaintiff who participated in the "Express Upgrade" program they could pursue the class action claims concerning the limited functionality as well.

One of Windows Vista's most touted features is the Aero interface.  However, it takes considerable overhead to run, and thus many of the machines labeled "Windows Vista," were unable to support it and could only run Windows Vista in a more graphically barren mode.

Microsoft did not comment on the suit, but may appeal the ruling.

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By thesafetyisoff on 2/25/2008 2:38:54 AM , Rating: 2
"Walk" or "Stagger" or perhaps even "Crawl" is a better description.

Is a car with one wheel missing still a car? Yes, and it will indeed "run," but the out-of-the-box automotive "experience" is not quite what the buyer bargained for.

If you're going to put a sticker on a machine that says it will run Vista, I think you should can expect it to run all the Vista features, including aero glass. If not, I'd say you've been deceived.

If I'm on the jury, Microsoft pays. And next time, no stickers, and the salespeople can explain that Windows Vista is installed - but its best features won't run on this machine.

By kelmon on 2/25/2008 2:52:20 AM , Rating: 1
Best comment on the subject so far, with the exception that someone buying a 3-wheeled car (Reliant Robins excepted) can see that the car is effectively "broken" whereas that's much more difficult with a computer. We forget that for most people the specifications of a computer might as well be written in Martian and that they simply expect it to run the software that it comes with well. Suggesting that a computer is "Vista Capable" and then putting in the caveat that this doesn't include all the effects is just nonsense. Whether actual harm came from this is debatable (if the manufacturers had inflated prices for "Vista Capable" badged systems then that would be harm) but it is clear that what "Vista Capable" really meant and what the customer thought it meant were two entirely separate things. In this respect I agree wholeheartedly with the suit (probably the first time that's happened), particularly since even Microsoft executives themselves identified that the scheme was misleading, after the fact.

By oab on 2/25/2008 3:17:33 AM , Rating: 2
It could run all the windows vista features, all the vista features that MS put into the copy of vista you were entitled to. Home Basic.

The real crime here is that Home Basic is even being offered, not that MS and the OEM's advertised that they were selling PC's that could run a version of MS's new OS

By Spivonious on 2/25/2008 8:01:53 AM , Rating: 3
No it's not like a 3-wheeled car.

Vista-Capable is if the car had a max speed of 65mph and was labeled "Highway-capable". It works just fine, it just doesn't compete with the other, more expensive cars.

By sweetsauce on 2/25/2008 3:58:40 PM , Rating: 2
Am i the only one who remembers windows 98 and ME machines with 128megs of ram having stickers saying xp capable? I swear those existed.

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