Class Action Suit Airs Intel and Microsoft's Vista Dirty Laundry
February 29, 2008 1:07 PM
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The little sticker that is causing a world of trouble for Microsoft and Intel.
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."
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
3/1/2008 6:13:12 PM
Yeah, anyone can be on the fence and look at both sides objectively, but for those of us that were quite literally gypped, I want more than just to see what the hell they have to say. I want to see Microsoft burn for this. I bought Vista Premium for my system (Intel E6300 overclocked to 3.15 GHz, Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard, eVGA 8800GTX, 2 gigs DDR2 800 4-3-3-4) and I was astonished at how completely sluggish Vista was operating on my GAMING rig.
The fact remains that Vista and DirectX 10 was 2 YEARS ahead of its time. This was a drastic shove into the market just so they could milk the Vista OS for all they could. Everybody bought into it as well, even though they were obviously going to have to upgrade their systems. the funny thing is, even after upgrading their systems, people were finding how sluggish, unresponsive, and buggy this new OS was. Sure, it all reminds us of how XP first started out (I sure as hell remember that), and we were all just saying "Give it time and it will shine", but this is way beyond the troubles we faced when XP first showed up. The XP machines marketed for XP were fully capable of running XP without a problem, but these supposed "Vista Capable" rigs can barely run Vista Basic! Even after I personally built myself an awesome rig that I had built specifically to play Crysis on, I am still reverting back to using XP because of how slow Vista is. I even upgraded my components since then (kept my E6300, changed the motherboard, RAM, and video card to Gigabyte P35C-DS3R, 2 gigs DDR3-1066 @ 1443 MHz, and an eVGA 8800GTS 512 G92), and the results didn't improve at all. A little faster at startup because of the much faster RAM, but other than that it is still sluggish. I would have to buy a 45nm Intel QX9650 in order to really see Vista move at a normal pace, but I am still having doubts.
I'm glad to see Microsoft getting busted for pulling this crap. They should have just waited until late 2008 before releasing it. By then, better video cards, better processors, and better RAM are available to really run Vista at a decent speed, and they also would have had the time to work out more bugs.
I'm not going to get rid of or delete my copy of Vista, but it would have been nice to know exactly how powerful of a rig someone would have to have in order to get full benefit from the Vista OS, and they intentionally mislead in order to sell the damned OS.
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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