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Microsoft revises, clarifies 'Vista Capable' language

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Days after Microsoft Corp. was sued over its 2006 "Windows Vista Capable" marketing program, the company's Web site sported a revised, more specific description of what the logo means.

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The lawsuit charged Microsoft with deceptive practices by letting PC makers slap a "Vista Capable" sticker on PCs -- even when some buyers wouldn't be able to run the new operating system's most-promoted features.

Filed on behalf of Washington state resident Dianne Kelley in a Seattle federal court a week ago, the suit alleges that "a large number" of the systems tagged with Vista Capable stickers were able to run only Vista Home Basic, the simplest version of the OS. The suit noted that Home Basic lacks many of the features, among them the new Aero interface, that Microsoft had heavily advertised as reasons why users should migrate to Vista.

"Microsoft engaged in bait and switch -- assuring consumers they were purchasing 'Vista Capable' machines when, in fact, they could obtain only a stripped-down operating system lacking the functionality and features that Microsoft advertised as 'Vista,'" the suit reads.

Prior to the lawsuit, Microsoft's description of Vista Capable was: "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. 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."

The system requirements for Vista Capable were spelled out as "A modern processor (at least 800MHz)," 512MB of memory and a graphics processor able to support DirectX 9.

After the lawsuit was filed, however, the Vista site displayed a revised and more specific description of the Capable label:

"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 [emphasis added]."

It's been no secret that Vista Capable machines, particularly those armed with only 512MB of RAM, are capable of little that's flashy and new in Vista. Microsoft's minimum requirement for memory, in fact, has been dismissed as unrealistic by everyone from computer makers to technology consultants, who maintain that 2GB is a reasonable minimum and 4GB is the new "sweet spot."

Microsoft officials did not respond to a call for comment.

By Gregg Keizer
Computerworld (US online)

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