by Shane O'Neill

Is Windows Vista ‘Capable’ or Culpable?

Nov 17, 20082 mins
Data Center

Once-private e-mails between executives at Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard are tumbling out of the “Windows Vista Capable” class-action lawsuit and it’s becoming more of a tangled web each day.

Late last week, as part of a lawsuit accusing Microsoft of deceiving consumers during its 2006 “Vista Capable” marketing program, e-mails were unsealed by U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman showing an exchange where Intel is concerned and confused about Microsoft’s decision to start its “Vista Capable” marketing program two months earlier than it had agreed upon.

The thing is, Intel didn’t have enough high-end graphics chips ready to meet the WDDM (Windows Display Driver Model) requirement of the “Vista Capable” program. The chip-maker wanted back its original program launch date of June 1, 2006. Microsoft refused to change the date (keeping it April 1), and instead reportedly relaxed the requirement that all PCs be able to handle WDDM.

This essentially allowed PCs with Intel’s older 915 chip set, which did not meet the requirements of WDDM and could not run Vista’s new graphics interface Aero, to be qualified for the “Vista Capable” sticker. The accusation is that Intel and Microsoft worked together to reduce the graphics standard to accommodate Intel’s 915 chip set.

Newer disclosed e-mails between executives show that Hewlett-Packard was infuriated in February 2006 when it discovered Microsoft was loosening the requirements for the “Vista Capable” program. Why so mad HP? Because the company had already spent nearly $7 million on technology for its machines to meet the original “Vista Capable” requirements.

It seems foolhardy that Microsoft would intentionally lower the graphics standard for Vista, an operating system that demands high-performing hardware. How could that not come back to bite them?

I repeat: How could that not come back to bite them? Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

I agree that Vista has improved in many ways over the past six to eight months. But I also agree it wasn’t ready when it was released, and I don’t think I’m alone there. One of the root causes for that unpreparedness may be sitting in now-disclosed e-mails between angry and confused executives.

Did Microsoft cut off its toes to fit the shoe here? Did appeasing its powerful monopoly brother, Intel, mark the beginning of the hardships that Windows Vista ultimately caused for Microsoft, its OEMs and its customers?

Let me know what you think?