Vista Capable Lawsuit May Turn Out To Be A Wild Goose Chase

I must really be missing something but I have to admit I've never seen the merit behind the Vista Capable lawsuit against Microsoft. I have to come to Microsoft's defense on this one (not that they need me). ComputerWorld is reporting on yesterday's court ruling by Judge Marsha Pechman who removed the suit's class action status. About a year ago she allowed the case to move to class action status to pursue a theory that the Vista Capable campaign was used to inflate prices. That hasn't born out, which is why it's no longer a class action lawsuit and any lawsuit will now have to be pursued individually.

That puts us back to the original argument, that Microsoft intentionally deceived us because Vista Home didn't have many of the other features in other Vista versions, and thus wasn't really a "true" version of Vista, As such Vista Home shouldn't have born the Vista Capable or Vista title. The Aero user interface (which requires a graphics processor, is an example often sited as a Vista feature missing in Vista Home.

That's like saying the low end model of the Honda Accord isn't really a true Accord because it doesn't have features like air conditioning, power windows, power locks and the cool sound system found in deluxe or luxury editions of the car. If there is a gray area (and it's not that gray to me) in the Vista Capable lawsuit it's around lower end machines which could only run Vista Home and they weren't capable of running Vista Premium, Business or Ultimate versions because they didn't have a graphics processing unit (GPU) needed to run Aero.

Here are my other reasons why this argument doesn't make sense:

  • Microsoft was very clear about what versions of Vista had what features. A product feature matrix is on the back of every box of Vista. If Microsoft was hiding the fact Vista Home couldn't use features like the Aero Interface, they were hiding it in plain site.
  • The core of all the versions of Vista is the same new kernel introduced in with Vista. It has to be, because all versions of Vista ship on the DVD and the license key turns on Vista's different "personalities" of Vista Home, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate.
  • The entry level Honda Accord is still a Honda Accord argument... air conditioning or not, it's still built on the same chassis and at it's core is a Honda Accord.

There's still the evidence of the email that has to be dealt with. Here's an excerpt from the ComputerWorld article with relevant portions of that internal email:

"I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program," [Jim] Allchin [then co-president of Microsoft's platform product group] said in e-mail from early 2006. "OEMs will say a machine is Capable, and customers will believe it will run all the core Vista features. The fact that Aero won't be there EVER for many of these machines is misleading to customers."

    -- from a ComputerWorld article by Gregg Keizer --

It seems like this email is more about one guy's opinion and not a whistle blower email, or smoking gun evidence that convicts Microsoft's purposeful intent to deceive the market.

Whether the suite has merit or not, moving it back into the realm of individual lawsuits will make this one tough to win against Microsoft. At the end of the day Vista Capable was a marketing campaign to bring awareness (e.g. sales) and build the Vista brand. It's just my opinion but it's hard to any evidence of Microsoft's intent to deceive or cover anything up. We'll see how much more legs the lawsuit has going forward.

Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.

Mitchell's Book Recommendations: Also visit Mitchell's other blogs and podcasts:

Visit Microsoft Subnet for more news, blogs, opinion from around the Web. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in