Monday, December 3, 2007

Vista Confusion

Users, and even lawyers, gets confused with the Vista Capable slogan of Microsoft.

Windows Vista Capable Confusion
A Microsoft Corp. product manager couldn't correctly explain the "Vista Capable" marketing slogan, according to recent filings in a lawsuit that claims the company misled consumers with a pre-release Vista campaign last year.

Dianne Kelley filed a case against Microsoft with deceptive practices in letting PC makers put "Vista Capable" stickers on PCs, letting users believe the configuration can run any version of Vista. The truth, however, is only a limited number of PCs can run a version higher than Windows Vista Home Basic, the simplest version of Windows Vista. Any other higher version would then require the "Premium Ready" sticker slapped on the unit, which was introduced in the late 2006. It can run Vista versions as high as Ultimate.

Both stickers were used to further sell machines running Windows XP before the delayed public release of Windows Vista.

About two weeks ago, lawyers for Kelley requested that the lawsuit be given class-action status, which would open the plaintiff list to all U.S. residents. Last week, Microsoft opposed that move in its own filing with the federal court in Seattle.

Microsoft argued that it spent considerable time and effort educating the public and providing information to its OEM hardware partners about the Vista Capable program. "From the inception of the WVC [Windows Vista Capable] program, Microsoft emphasized that not all Windows Vista Capable PCs were equal," Microsoft said in its Nov. 19 filing. "As Microsoft repeatedly told the public, 'premium features and advanced experiences' such as Windows Aero would require a PC labeled 'Premium Ready.' "

But in a deposition taken by Kelley's lawyers that was included in their Nov. 9 brief, a Microsoft manager couldn't correctly explain what "capable" meant in the Vista marketing blitz.
"Capable is a statement that has an interpretation for many that, in the context of this program, a PC would be able to run any version of the Windows Vista operating system," said Mark Croft, the company's director of marketing. " 'Ready' may have [prompted] concerns that the PC would run in some improved or better way than -- than 'Capable,' therefore the word capable was deemed to be a more fitting word for this program."

After a 10-minute consultation with Microsoft's lawyers, Croft corrected himself. "I made the statement that ... Capable would be able to run any version of Windows Vista, whereas, in reality, our intent with Capable was that the system would be able to run a version of Windows Vista," he said. "So quite an important difference in the two -- two terms there."

Last April, just weeks after Kelley filed her lawsuit, Microsoft denied that it had changed its online description of a Vista Capable PC's capabilities. "We have made no changes to how we communicated Vista Capable in the past few months, other than to make some [verb] tense changes to indicate that [Vista] had shipped," a company spokeswoman said at the time.

Microsoft also disputed the contention that Vista Home Basic is, as Kelley's lawyers have argued, nothing more than "a gimmick Microsoft designed" to help computer makers unload "soon-to-be-obsolete PCs that Microsoft knew lacked the horsepower to run the 'real' Vista."

"Windows Vista Home Basic represents a major advancement over Microsoft's earlier operating systems," said the company in its filing last week, listing desktop gadgets and parental controls as two features that distinguish Home Basic from the earlier XP Home.

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