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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 4, 2007 at 3:01 PM

Microsoft changes its tune on Vista Capable PCs

Did the class action lawsuit — or anticipation of a lawsuit — prompt Microsoft to clarify what it means when it says a PC is “Vista Capable”?

Check out how Microsoft’s language has changed.

It was pretty weasely when the Vista Capable program was announced in May. I’ve highlighted weasel words in this excerpt from the press release:

To help customers make informed decisions when buying new PCs, Microsoft today announced the availability of Windows Vista Capable PCs and the forthcoming availability of Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs. Through the Windows Vista Capable program, Windows XP-based PCs that are powerful enough to run Windows Vista are now available from leading PC manufacturers worldwide, including Acer Inc., Dell Inc., Fujitsu Limited, Gateway Inc., HP, Lenovo, NEC Corp., Sony Corp., Toshiba and more. The Windows Vista Capable logo is designed to assure customers that the PCs they buy today will be ready for an upgrade to Windows Vista and can run the core experiences of Windows Vista.

Microsoft also is working with PC manufactures to introduce Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs. Windows Vista Capable PCs can earn the Premium Ready designation by meeting or exceeding the requirements outlined below. A Premium Ready designation ensures that the PC will deliver even better Windows Vista experiences, including Windows Aero™, a new user experience designed to deliver a productive, high-performing desktop interface. Microsoft recommends that customers seeking the best experiences with Windows Vista ask for PCs that are Premium Ready or choose PCs that meet or exceed the Premium Ready requirements.

Here’s how the company’s explaining Vista Capable today. Apparently the lawyers are editing the marketing stuff — I’ve highlighted the apparent defense Microsoft will use in the lawsuit:

A new PC running Windows XP that carries the Windows Vista Capable PC logo can run Windows Vista. All editions of Windows Vista will deliver core experiences such as innovations in organizing and finding information, security, and reliability. All Windows Vista Capable PCs will run these core experiences at a minimum. Some features available in the premium editions of Windows Vista — like the new Windows Aero user experience — may require advanced or additional hardware.

It’s too bad it took a lawsuit or the expectation of one for Microsoft to be straightforward about Vista Capable. What will consumers now think of the other Windows logo programs? A lot will think those stickers mean “Vista Capable — Maybe.”

The lawsuit should also push PC makers and retailers to do a better job explaining what they’re selling to customers. Sure Microsoft set the specs for Vista Capable, but vendors should be able to explain their products and not use Microsoft stickers to move cheap, underpowered PCs.

But this particular suit is a little wacky. It never describes what exactly happened with the lead plaintiff, Dianne Kelley. Was she able to run Vista Premium on her PC? Was she disappointed in the experience?

Did she try returning the machine to the store? Did she end up switching to a Mac?

Even odder are the citations. The suit mentions a Bill Gates appearance on the Today Show and a Vista team blog entry posted in October.

The lawsuit also refers to several articles about Vista that were published in the smaller of Seattle’s two daily newspapers. If Kelley was relying on that news outlet, that might have exacerbated her difficulties. The larger paper warned its readers several times since May that the Vista Capable labels can be misleading.

Comments | Topics: Microsoft


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