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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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RE: Another pointless lawsuit
By oab on 2/25/2008 2:59:51 AM , Rating: 5
MS was being honest. A Vista-capable PC was capable of running Windows Vista. MS had 4 different versions available to consumers (basic, premium, business and ultimate). A "vista capable" pc met the requirements to run Windows Vista Home Basic. You can't argue that it is true, and there was no real attempt to hide it. It was a little underhanded yes, but they never LIED about it. It wasn't FALSE advertising.

I worked in a big-box retail computer speciality store (similar to Best Buy, CompUSA, Future Shop, etc.) at the time that this program was announced. MS sent out a rep, they sent flyers and leaflets to all the sales staff saying "vista capable = home basic, vista premium = home premium" and "upsell your customers to premium ready PC's and increase your sales dollars". MS did all they could to make sure that at the very least the management knew what the difference was. MS said in the pamphlets we got "we are doing this to keep demand strong during the holidays so make sure you tell your customers that just because a new OS is coming out, doesn't mean they can't buy a new PC yet"

When Vista finally came out half of the PC's we had on our showroom floor were Home Basic ones. Now, most of the PC's we had were laptops, and within a few months there were almost no vista basic laptops anymore (no-one bought them because they were crap for Vista and the OEM's recognized this and discontinued most models), but when it rolled out there were only a few more "premium" pc's on the shelves compared to before. The split pre-vista was 75% capable, 25% premium (assuming they had a sticker, not all did even if it met the requirements). On launch day, the split was 50% - %50%. In 4 months, the split became 25% basic 75% premium.

The sticker program DID hold back newer more powerful models of computers until January yes, but that's business. It wasn't false advertising, the "capable" machines were right beside the "premium" machines on the shelves, the sales guys were _supposed_ to have been told the difference, by the MS rep, the HP/Toshiba/Acer/etc. reps that visit all the stores and "train" the sales staff. Their managers would want them to upsell to the premium PC's because margins were higher and the line "this one can't run the premium edition of vista, but this one here that's $200 more can" is an easy sell.

I'm done.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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