Vista Marketing Called Deceptive in Lawsuit

Microsoft unfairly labeled PCs "Windows Vista Capable" even when the computers could run only the most basic form of the operating system, according to a lawsuit filed in March.

Prior to the availability of Vista, Microsoft launched a marketing campaign that allowed PC makers to place a sticker on computers alerting potential buyers that they could upgrade to Vista when it became available.

However, "a large number" of those PCs could capably run only the Home Basic version of Vista, which lacks many features, such as enhanced graphics, that Microsoft advertises as included in Vista, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks class-action status and asks for damages. The suit notes that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and that the size of the class likely exceeds 10,000 people.

According to the suit, Home Premium, the least expensive version of Vista that still includes most of the heavily advertised features, does not run (or runs poorly) on many of the machines with the Vista label.

In addition, when Microsoft later offered buyers of "Windows Vista Capable" computers free or reduced-price upgrades to Vista, the company offered Home Basic to many customers, not the more powerful Home Premium version. "In sum, Microsoft assured consumers they were purchasing 'Vista Capable' PCs when, in fact, they could obtain only a stripped-down operating system lacking the features that Microsoft advertised as 'Vista,'" the suit claims.

Microsoft "conducted a broad effort to educate computer manufacturers, retailers and consumers about the hardware requirements to run different versions of Windows Vista," says Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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