• Microsoft Executive Said "Vista Capable" Label Misled Consumers
  • January 9, 2009
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Microsoft’s former co-president Jim Allchin described the company’s decision to permit PC makers to label machines as Vista Capable even though they were incapable of running all of Windows Vista’s features as “terrible” and “misleading,” according to new e-mails revealed recently in a consumer fraud suit against the company.

    “I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program,” Allchin wrote in an April 2006 e-mail to a group of Microsoft product executives. PC manufacturers “will say a machine is Capable and customers will believe that it will run all the core Vista features. The fact that [one of Vista’s features, its 3-D Aero interface,] won’t be there EVER for many of these machines is misleading to customers,” wrote Allchin, who retired from Microsoft when Vista was launched in January 2007. He added that he considered the Vista Capable campaign “wrong for customers.”

    The Vista Capable program was aimed at reassuring customers who bought PCs prior to Vista’s debut that they would be able to upgrade to the new operating system once it became available. Other e-mails entered as evidence allegedly demonstrate that Microsoft had earlier lowered the specifications for a Vista Capable PC to satisfy Intel, whose 915 graphics chipset was not capable of running Vista’s 3-D Aero interface.

    A class action lawsuit charges Microsoft with deceptive marketing practices, alleging that Microsoft purposefully misled customers by marketing computers as Vista Capable computers even though they lacked the power to fully support all of its features. Consumers Dianne Kelley and Kenneth Hansen first sued Microsoft last March in federal court in Washington state, claiming they were victimized by “bait and switch” sales tactics. Earlier this year, a court granted class action status to the case.

    Microsoft has argued that it did not deceive consumers because the Vista Capable campaign distinguished between PCs that could run the basic version of the operating system and those able to run the premium version.