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Microsoft Hit With Suit About "Vista-Capable" Branding Practices

April 4, 2007

A proposed class action lawsuit seeking unspecified damages has been filed against Microsoft, accusing it up deceptive practices by permitting PC manufacturers promote their machines as "Windows Vista Capable" even if those machines were incapable of running some of Vista's "signature" features.

Filed under the name of Camano Island, Washington resident Dianne Kelley, the complaint alleges that machines advertised as Vista-capable lack the the "Aero" on-screen appearance, Media Center PC interface, Flip 3D window-switching and other features only available in advanced Windows Vista builds.

"All the 'wow' stuff that Microsoft is selling and marketing is present in (Windows Vista Home) Premium, but it's not present in Basic," said Michael Rosenberger, one of the lawyers representing Kelley in the case.

No big shock here, but Microsoft would beg to differ.

Microsoft  "conducted a very broad and unprecedented effort" to help PC makers, retailers and consumers "understand the hardware requirements to run the various flavors of the Windows Vista operating system," said Microsoft associate general counsel. Linda Norman was quoted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Microsoft beat reporter Todd Bishop as saying "We feel as a company we went beyond what we've ever done to try to educate people so that they understood and could make the right purchase decision."

"In sum, Microsoft engaged in bait and switch -- assuring consumers they were purchasing 'Vista Capable' machines when, in fact, they could obtain only a stripped-down operating system lacking the functionality and features that Microsoft advertised as 'Vista,' " the complaint says. As a result, the suit said, people were buying machines that couldn't run "the real Vista."

The suit further charges that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates contributed to the company's "deceptive marketing" during a Jan. 29 appearance on the "Today" show, when he said that PC users could upgrade to Windows Vista for less than $100.

"In fact, one can only 'upgrade' to Home Basic for that price, which Mr. Gates and Microsoft know is a product that lacks the features marketed by Microsoft as being Vista," the suit says. The filing alleges that Gates' statement "furthered Microsoft's unfair and deceptive conduct."

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