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Update: "Vista Capable" trial

The ongoing "Vista Capable" class-action lawsuit against Microsoft took an interesting turn the other day when an expert witness for the plaintiffs claimed that the Redmond company made more than $1.5 billion through their "Vista Capable" marketing campaign.

The origins of the trial itself are to be found in the months prior to Vista's release when many computers were sold with Windows XP and the promise that they would be capable of running Vista. However, many of these PCs, which sold at a premium and bore the "Vista Capable" label, turned out to be only capable of running Vista Basic. Hence, Microsoft is being sued for what many would call false advertising.

It is unclear, however, how much of the more than $1.5 billion was earned from those PCs that were only able to run Vista Basic. (It is also unclear how many consumers bought these sub-par PCs at higher prices mainly or even partly because of the claim that they were "Vista Capable", but this would not be relevant to the case.)

The plaintiffs, however, are not the only ones with a complaint against Microsoft. Emails made public during the trial reveal Hewlett-Packard's fury at a last-minute decision on Microsoft's part to lower the minimum specifications for PCs that would be able to receive the "Vista Capable" label. This move benefitted Intel, who were keen to sell off lower-spec stock, but enraged HP, who had invested heavily in meeting the earlier, higher set of minimum requirements. In one of these emails, Richard Walker, an executive at HP, writes to Kevin Johnson and Jim Allchin, co-presidents at the time of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division:

"I can't be more clear than to say you not only let us down by reneging on your commitment to stand behind the WDDM requirement, you have demonstrated a complete lack of commitment to HP as a strategic partner and cost us a lot of money in the process. Your credibility is severely damaged in my organization. I have engineers who've worked their tails off to qualify new platforms to support WDDM who are wondering why they put so much effort in when Microsoft changed the rules at the last minute and didn't even consult us before making the announcement."

Should the plaintiffs win the case, punitive damages against Microsoft could also be applied. Whether or not the plaintiffs are successful, this may not be the end of things, as the EU may want to have their say on the matter.

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