Microsoft is being sued for deceptive practices for branding PCs a being “Windows Vista Capable,” even though those machines could only run Windows Vista Home Basic, which doesn’t include the most important parts of the new operating system, including Aero. This isn’t an example of lawyers run amok — Microsoft is wrong here.
The class-action suit focuses on the “Windows Vista Capable” labels plastered on PCs. It contends that when people bought PCs with “Windows Vista Capable” labels, they were “falsely led to believe they would be upgraded to a dramatically new operating system bearing the key features marketed by Microsoft.”
In other words, it was bait and switch.
Windows Vista Home Basic is no one’s idea of a good operating system. It won’t run any of Vista’s advanced graphical features, including Aero, Windows Flip 3D, and Live Thumbnails. It doesn’t have Windows Media Center. It doesn’t have backup features. There’s a lot more it won’t do as well.
When people see the Windows Vista Capable label, they assume the PC will run the Vista that Microsoft spends untold millions of dollars advertising. They’re expecting the “Wow!” that Microsoft advertises everywhere. That’s not what they get, though.
According to CNet, Microsoft contends that it “conducted a very broad and unprecedented effort” to help consumers “understand the hardware requirements to run the various flavors of the Windows Vista operating system.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been using and writing about Windows Vista since early early beta, and have published two books about it, including Windows Vista in a Nutshell, and even I still get confused about which versions of Vista include which feature. Off the top of your head, can you tell me if Windows Vista Home Premium can use BitLocker encryption, for example? How about the Business edition? Does the Enterprise Edition include Windows DVD Maker? Does it include Windows Movie Maker? How about Windows Vista Home Basic — does it include one or both?
Microsoft confuses the issue even further by having two labels, not one, for PCs. One calls PCs “Windows Vista Capable.” The other calls a PC “Windows Vista Premium Ready.”
So the average consumer has no way of knowing what featues a “Windows Vista Capable” PC has. In fact, the average consumer thinks there’s only one version of Vista, and when he buys a PC that says it’s “Windows Vista Capable,” he’s buying all the features Microsoft pitches to him on TV.
Microsoft is clearly wrong here. I’m no fan of lawyers, but I hope Microsoft loses this suit.