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Originally published April 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 5, 2007 at 2:07 AM

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Brier Dudley

Microsoft changes its tune on Vista

Did the class-action lawsuit filed in Seattle last week prompt Microsoft to clarify what it means when it says a...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Excerpts from the blog

Did the class-action lawsuit filed in Seattle last week prompt Microsoft to clarify what it means when it says a PC is "Vista Capable"?

The suit alleges Microsoft misled customers, because it authorized the Vista Capable label to be used on PCs that can't run features such as the 3-D "glass" interface.

Check out how Microsoft's language has changed.

It was weaselly when the Vista Capable program was announced last May. I highlighted key words in this excerpt from the news release:

"Through the Windows Vista Capable program, Windows XP-based PCs that are powerful enough to run Windows Vista are now available from leading PC manufacturers worldwide, including Acer Inc., Dell Inc., Fujitsu Limited, Gateway Inc., HP, Lenovo, NEC Corp., Sony Corp., Toshiba and more. The Windows Vista Capable logo is designed to assure customers that the PCs they buy today will be ready for an upgrade to Windows Vista and can run the core experiences of Windows Vista.

"Microsoft also is working with PC manufacturers to introduce Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs. Windows Vista Capable PCs can earn the Premium Ready designation by meeting or exceeding the requirements outlined below. A Premium Ready designation ensures that the PC will deliver even better Windows Vista experiences ... ."

The core has shifted. Here's how the company's Web site was explaining it Wednesday. Lawyers must be editing this stuff; I've highlighted what looks like the company's defense:

"A new PC running Windows XP that carries the Windows Vista Capable PC logo can run Windows Vista. All editions of Windows Vista will deliver core experiences such as innovations in organizing and finding information, security, and reliability. All Windows Vista Capable PCs will run these core experiences at a minimum. Some features available in the premium editions of Windows Vista — like the new Windows Aero user experience — may require advanced or additional hardware."

Too bad it took a lawsuit or the expectation of one for Microsoft to be straightforward about Vista Capable.

The lawsuit should also push PC makers and retailers to do a better job explaining what they're selling. Sure Microsoft set the specs for Vista Capable, but vendors should be able to explain their products and not use Microsoft stickers to move cheap, underpowered PCs.

But this particular suit is a little wacky. It never describes what exactly happened with the lead plaintiff, Dianne Kelley of Camano Island. Was she able to run Vista Premium on her PC? Was she disappointed?

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Even odder are the citations. The suit mentions a Bill Gates appearance on "The Today Show" and a Vista team blog entry posted in October.

The lawsuit also refers to articles about Vista delays published in the smaller of Seattle's two daily newspapers. If Kelley was relying on that news outlet, that might have exacerbated her difficulties. The larger paper warned its readers several times since May that the Vista Capable labels can be misleading.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley's blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

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About Brier Dudley

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
bdudley@seattletimes.com | 206-515-5687

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