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The little sticker that is causing a world of trouble for Microsoft and Intel.  (Source: DailyTech)
Microsoft executive -- "We set ourselves up"

One of the most iconic images of Microsoft's Windows Vista launch in January 2007 was the small "Windows Vista Capable" stickers on computers months before, reassuring customers that when the new operating system came out, their computers could be updated to the latest and greatest.  Unfortunately for the consumer it appears that the capabilities that these stickers promised were intentionally exaggerated to benefit Microsoft and chipmaker Intel.

A class action suit filed against Microsoft in April 2007 accused Microsoft of intentionally misleading consumers with the stickers, claiming the "Vista Capable" logos on computers that were anything but.  The suit centered around several key points, among which was that the computers sold could not run Windows Vista's more impressive features such as the Aero user interface, and were left with only a bare-bones skeleton of Vista.  The suit forced Microsoft to redefine its definition of what exactly "Vista Capable" meant, which included Microsoft's addition of a disclaimer that some of the PCs bearing the sticker could not run significant Vista features such as Aero.

Meanwhile, the legal case proceeded forward.  Armed with internal emails obtained from Microsoft, the plaintiffs, represented by high-power attorney Jeffrey Tilden of Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell, took their case before a U.S. District Judge in order to gain class action status.  In a significant victory for the plaintiffs U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman granted the case class action status, with the primary focus being to determine whether Microsoft intentionally deceived consumers to sell PCs.  The judge also opened the door for the suit to also encompass gripes about the lack of Aero if the plaintiffs found another named plaintiff who bough Vista but was unable to run Aero.

Now in the aftermath of the ruling, the Judge Pechman unsealed 158 pages of Microsoft corporate emails (PDF) that paint a picture Microsoft would rather not have the public see.

Some of these emails featured Microsoft employees candidly describing the program with, "
Even a piece of junk will qualify" for "Vista Capable" designation.  The now famous email from Mike Nash, currently a corporate vice president for Windows product management, states, "I PERSONALLY got burnt ... Are we seeing this from a lot of customers? ... I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine." 

Less dramatic, but equally damaging was the email from
Jim Allchin, then the co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, stating grimly, "We really botched this ... You guys have to do a better job with our customers."

The most interesting emails though, turn out to be the new ones.  While a number of key portions of several emails were redacted, the parts that remain paint a picture of intentional deception that Microsoft virtually admitted to in the internal emails.

In the emails Microsoft executives discuss how the Intel 915 Chipset was to initially be deemed incompatible Windows Vista.   The policy was abruptly reversed.  Says one of the executives in charge of the decision, "
In the end, we lowered the requirements to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded.  We are caving to Intel. We worked the last 18 months to drive the [user interface] experience and we are giving this up."

This admission is extremely significant as it precisely describes what was alleged by the class action suit.  Microsoft will have to fight an uphill battle to prove that its employees' email correspondence was inaccurate and misleading.

Other emails make it clear that retailers had voiced frustrations with Microsoft, and were met with stubborn resistance from Microsoft executives due to the policy, which aimed to underhandedly pump up Intel's chipset sales.  Says one Microsoft executive, guiltily, "
I was in Best Buy listening to people and can tell you this did not come clear to customers. We set ourselves up."

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The Good Old Days
By Screwuhippie on 2/29/2008 1:36:58 PM , Rating: 2
What ever happened to the good ole days where you could just shred/burn all your papers and it was gone. Once something is "emailed" its a permanent part of ... life.

A smart man once said ... never email anything you don't want the world to see.

RE: The Good Old Days
By KristopherKubicki on 2/29/2008 1:46:00 PM , Rating: 2
Confidential memo policies don't change themselves...

RE: The Good Old Days
By Mitch101 on 2/29/2008 2:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
Yup shredding/hiding/deleting whatever you want to call it still happens.

White House Must Answer For Missing Emails

RE: The Good Old Days
By Viditor on 3/2/2008 3:56:16 PM , Rating: 2
Or more to the point:

"Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive, Craig Barrett, chairman, and Sean Maloney, head of worldwide sales and marketing, failed to preserve their e-mail, despite an antitrust lawsuit filed in 2005 against the company by AMD, according to transcripts of a status hearing last week in a U.S. District Court in Delaware"

RE: The Good Old Days
By Screwuhippie on 2/29/2008 2:17:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yet ...

RE: The Good Old Days
By TimTheEnchanter25 on 2/29/2008 2:48:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm surprissed that the emails were still around for anyone to see.

The big companies that purge their email servers every 30 days don't do it because they can't afford the storage.

RE: The Good Old Days
By mindless1 on 2/29/2008 3:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps but archiving email also serves a more likely purpose of keeping track of employees internally. You can't realistically have people sitting around doing nothing but reading employee email in (almost) realtime but to a gazillion dollar company, what's a few extra data tapes in the vault?

RE: The Good Old Days
By hcahwk19 on 2/29/2008 4:37:43 PM , Rating: 2
The big issue legally is the court's interpretation of "capable." That basically will make or break this case for both sides.

The internal emails are very important as well. If MS had purposefully deleted them, with the intent to keep them out of the discovery evidence, the plaintiffs would be able to put hearsay evidence from employees as to what those emails contained. That also goes for any hardcopy memorandums or any other evidence that MS would not want people to see. If MS had done it, MS would have to prove it was part of the normal course of business to destroy that evidence, and not just an attempt to avoid it being introduced in court. Even then, the hearsay might still get in based on the destruction of possible evidence.

This class action could end up being very bad for MS and Intel both.

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