Even Microsoft Execs Hated On "Vista Capable" Labeling

Microsoft’s “Vista Capable” program was so misleading that even Microsoft executives complained about it according to emails revealed last week in court. The emails were read aloud at a hearing to determine class-action status for a related lawsuit against the company. One corporate vice president wrote, “”I PERSONALLY got burnt. … Are we seeing this from a lot of customers? … I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine.” The co-president of another division wrote, “We really botched this. … You guys have to do a better job with our customers.”

The suit claims Microsoft “knowingly misled consumers by allowing PC makers to emblazon ‘Windows Vista Capable’ stickers on PCs that could run only the most bare-bones version of the operating system,” and last week’s hearing was to determine whether the suit can be granted class-action status. Microsoft says the emails were part of a much larger discussion and perfectly normal.

Amusingly, Microsoft is using the complex, confusing marketing scheme as an argument against class-action status, by saying that each consumer had different information available when making his purchase and therefore can’t be grouped together:

“For instance, a Microsoft Web site provided information about the various editions of Vista, while magazines, blogs and even some retailers also explained the distinctions.”

The judge is expected to issue a ruling on the status of the case later this month.

“Suit says Microsoft knew it misled” [SeattlePI via ArsTechnica]
(Photo background: Getty)

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  1. weakdome says:

    I was really hoping this was going to be an article on MS Execs saying how much they hated Vista.

  2. redhelix says:

    This is a sticky situation, because what the stickers said aren’t necessarily untrue. The limitation is on what features of Vista are usable with the hardware on the laptop; not whether a certain version Vista is capable of running on it in the first place. (Hell, my 6-year old Satellite Pro can run Vista Ultimate.)

    The “Vista Capable” stickers implied that the machine could only take advantage of all of the features in Home Basic. You COULD install Home Premium, Business or Ultimate on it, but that machine wouldn’t be able to use the Aero glass interface or other graphics-intensive features. But you could still run it if you wanted to.

    The “Vista Premium” capable stickers implied that the machine could take advantage of ALL the features the Vista OS’s had to offer, and you’d usually see it on newer machines with a dedicated GPU.

  3. Toof_75_75 says:

    @weakdome: Agreed!

  4. DashTheHand says:

    If someone spent $2,100 and ended up with an email machine they deserve it. Honestly, if you don’t know the first thing when it comes to computers, why are you spending $2k+ on one, why are you using Vista when it most likely was fine with XP on it, and WHAT are you using it for?

    Seeing as how this guy was a Microsoft Exec, I would HOPE that he had SOME knowledge of computers, which is even sadder because a machine I spent 1k on and built myself 3 years ago can run Vista fine if I so choose.

    I honestly don’t know how he could come up with a figure like $2,100 and not have it include the monitor, printer, and a bunch of accessories and it be 10 years old. Then yea, it probably can’t run Vista if it shipped with Windows 95.

  5. weakdome says:

    @Toof_75_75: I love your icon

  6. jmschn says:

    @DashTheHand: I agree with you, but you society needs the dimwitted to balance things out.

  7. MPHinPgh says:

    Vista Ultimate runs like a champ on my run-of-the-mill 2 year-old HP laptop. And it wasn’t even labeled “Vista Capable”.

    Oh, wait. Maybe THAT’S why it works so well…

  8. XTC46 says:

    @redhelix: exactly. Hell vista will run on machines with out the sticker too, just not well and it may be a pain to find drivers. Granted, they could have done a better job explaining it (I worked for CompUSA and the salespeople are retarded and explained the stickers wrong all the time) so it was an issue, but not on microsofts part.

  9. Buran says:

    What’s the problem? It’s capable of running Vista. It may not run it with all the bells and whistles, but it’s capable of running it.

    How is it the company’s fault when you fail to do your research and see what reviews say about an expensive item like this? It’s not like software system requirements are hard to find.

  10. KJones says:

    And people complain when I call them Microshaft.

    How else would you describe what they’re trying to do to customers?

  11. redhelix says:

    @xtc46: You touch upon an important issue: Most retail PC salespeople are idiots and have no business selling anything, ever

  12. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    @weakdome: Me too. It seems like Ballmer is ruining the Windows Empire… does he have a fiddle yet?

  13. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Does Ballmer have a fiddle yet? The Windows empire is gonna catch fire soon.

  14. guspaz says:

    Funny, my machine (purchased shortly before Vista came out) has only a “Vista Capable” sticker on it, but was actually more than qualified for the “Premium” sticker based on the fact that every spec on my machine surpasses the “Premium” requirement and then some.

    So I was in the opposite situation as the plaintiffs.

  15. Dibbler says:

    The guy in the article purchased a $2100 computer with a Vista Capable sticker on it and it won’t run Vista? All that says is that he really shouldn’t be in charge of anything that requires the handling of money. Obviously he got ripped off big time. I wonder if it was a Radio Shack TR-80?

  16. Shadowman615 says:

    Who the hell spends $2100 on a computer with only minimal hardware on it? You could have spent that much 3-5 years ago and still have a computer capable of running Vista *with all of the special effects turned on*. In fact, Vista runs almost just as well on my 2004 Dell (was $1300 back then) as it does on my 6-month-old more expensive custom built one. And it runs fine on a $500 “Vista-Capable” laptop also.

  17. Shadowman615 says:

    @Dibbler: Ahhh, beat me to it.

  18. Joafu says:

    People are made because they *can’t* use Vista on their computers? They should be honoured that they have XP. And how did he spend $2100 on a computer that didn’t have the specs to run Vista? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m asking.

  19. redhelix says:

    @Joafu: Maybe he bought one of those retarded Gateway laptops with the proprietary Intel speedstep driver that prevents you from upgrading out of XP home.

  20. MisterE says:

    This another reason why I switched to MACINTOSH. Please, no MAC vs PC flames.

  21. shadow735 says:

    @KJones: Your my new hero I love that phrase and have now added it to my favorite used words file. :)
    @Joafu: a lot of people have cash but now computer knowledge so a person could dump wasted money on a machine that cant run Vista. I returned my computer because Vista run like crap for a more expensive gaming system that still had XP, its runs like a champ. Vista will be fine in a few years.

  22. selectman says:

    MS also has a big problem with Vista 64-bit. I haven’t checked in a few months, but as of then there was not a single major manufacturer making Vista 64-bit compatible wireless cards. Not Linksys, D-Link or Netgear. No one. All you could do was download third party drivers from some guy’s website and hope it’s not a root kit.

    Back on topic though…the labeling thing really threw me off too because they didn’t differentiate 32 and 64 bit. So I bought and returned multiple wireless cards with Vista labels only to find out that it really just meant 32 bit. Throw the 32/64 bit thing on top of the umpteen different versions they have and you get a big Charlie Foxtrot.

  23. chrisbacke says:

    I hope some of these lawsuits get through to M$… Making a product’s specifications and abilities easily understood makes marketing a LOT easier, and confusing customers isn’t the way to help sell your brand-new shiny thingamajig.

    I suspect M$ *tried* by saying ‘Vista capable’ (translation: this system is capable of running Vista like a Kia Rio is capable of holding 5 adults) and ‘Vista ready’ (translation: this system is more likely to run Vista well) or ‘Vista Premium’ or whatever other labels they used. Simple, easy to understand description of their labels, along with what those descriptions mean.

    Suggesting ‘research’ to a non-techie (heck, even a geek like me) is a nightmare since the non-techie doesn’t know where to look, and the techie can spend hours on arcane BB threads…

    Just skip Vista and wait for Windows 7 – XP will still be on too many computers for it to get outdated…

  24. Beerad says:

    Geez, what’s with all the hate for the guy admitting he spent $2,100 on a highly technical device he didn’t fully understand? Look, I’m 31, I’m reasonably computer-savvy. Do you know what they “taught” me in my public school computer ed classes? How to do simple programming in BASIC on yes, TRS-80s. Fortunately I was into technology and learned a whole lot more outside of class, but this is what most people around my age got. This corporate veep is probably just an older business guy, not a techie.

    I wonder how many of you people who are ZOMG-shocked that this guy didn’t know everything about his purchase own (or are likely to buy in the future) $20,000 cars, but are unable to pop the hood, point out the fuel injector or air filter, and explain exactly how they make the car go? Does that make you fools, or just normal folks who buy something with the simple understanding that “it works”?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Microsoft fan (very happy Mac switch devotee, thanks) but why crap all over this poor guy for not being a computer genius?

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    I had exactly the same thing happen when I bought my iMac then Panther came out 1.5 years later.

    Oh. Wait. It runs both w/o a hiccup. Never mind.

    Seriously, if you need to break out slide rules (because their new OS labeling strategy is so convoluted you can’t even use a Windows program to figure it out), then either MS or the hardware manufacturers, or both, need to get sued. Just to teach them not to get so “creative” next time.

    Umm, five years from now.

  26. weakdome says:

    @Beerad: because this guy WORKS for the company. It’s mildly ironic. Most average users do NOT know what they are buying, but you would hope that a corporate VP would know enough about his OWN industry to realize what he was buying.

  27. CPC24 says:

    @guspaz: Same story here. My “Vista Capable” machine runs it very well. Whatever happened to the old advice of buying as much RAM as you can possibly afford? People buy $299 systems and wonder why they can’t run anything! MS is damned if they do, damned if they don’t: they made XP so good, people didn’t want to upgrade!

  28. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Beerad: Thank you. For most people a computer is an appliance. It’s the most sophisticated appliance they have, but they don’t really get into the guts of it more than they do their TV or refrigerator. It’s totally reasonable for an average consumer to assume new computer + new OS, and you’re going to be able to switch the thing on and have everything work like you expect it to.

  29. Zagroseckt says:

    For god sake 32/64bit

    SOOO many pc’s out there NEW ones with 64bit duel core cpu’s still only come with the blasted 32bit version of vista

    M$ There just simply isnt many 32 bit prosessers out there anymore.
    vista 64 runs all the 32bit apps

    Make the manufactures put the right OS in the system to start with ..

    Heck
    STOP MAKING 32BIT VERSIONS! peroid 32bit O/S’s cant use many of the advanced pipelines in new motherboards. Even the EL cheepo’s

    And you manufactures out there….
    Stop saying your junk works with vista when all you have is a half baked half working Super striped down verson of a vista driver.

    I just bought a printer manufacturd last month (born on date) has works with vista all over it.

    Well it works with vista. for a given % of works.

    cant clean print heads cant align print heads cant tell how much ink is left in print heads cant get the blasted thing out of economy print mode (grayish black text) locks up the pc if you try to use the scanner (yes folks i’m returning this printer)

    worst part? is this printer some off brand elcheepo or gray market item.

    this is a HP deskjet 190 bucks with so many featurs your head spins.

    Rant over.

  30. Joafu says:

    @shadow735: Vista will definitely run pretty slick in no more than three years. For now, I would rather not pay to beta test it, especially because XP is doing just fine. Hehe, Microshaft.

  31. rdldr1 says:

    If the machine can run Visa, even the basic version, than I see no problem with the PC being Vista capable.

  32. f3rg says:

    4-yr-old PC running Vista Premium no prob. Quitcherbitchin.

  33. mercnet says:

    People still pay for software? God I love linux, open office, and gimp.

  34. JustaConsumer says:

    Vista brought my computer to it’s knees for three days. I found a simple solution, bought a Mac.

  35. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @JiminyChristmas: Seriously. I don’t know how to fix my refrigerator or my stove, so why should I expect someone else to know how to fix their computer?

  36. parnote says:

    Why does everyone want to limit themselves either to a Windows machine or a Mac? Beat them all, and install Ubuntu! It’s not difficult to use (relatively small learning curve) and is MUCH more stable and usable … at a FAR better price … FREE!

    When, oh when, will people stop fueling the Gates and Jobs family fortunes?