back to article Judge greenlights lawsuit against Microsoft

A US judge has given the go-ahead for consumers to file a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for providing misleading information about Windows XP computers being able to run Vista. Redmond’s “Windows Vista Capable” labels first appeared on computers in April 2006, even though the firm’s latest operating system didn’t get a …


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  1. David Harper

    When I were a lad

    "Redmond said at the time that customers could run a more basic GUI of [Windows Vista] if they had an 800MHz CPU, 512MB of memory and any DirectX 9-capable graphics card."

    That's more memory and a faster CPU than a Cray X-MP. And still it can only run the most basic Vista GUI.

    The whirring sound you can hear is Seymour Cray spinning in his grave.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Am I missing something?

    But can it run Vista? If yes, then surely it is doing what it says on the tin?

    If it said "Vista Ultimate, with a the fancy bits turned on compatible" then it would be ok....

  3. Andy
    Gates Horns

    Loathe as I am to defend anyone... this really any worse than advertising laptops 'from £200' where the £200 version is so poorly specified that a child in Africa would be ashamed to own it; the price for a decent version being more than double that.

    They said it was Vista Capable and, as there is something called Vista that it is capable of running, I don't see that there's much merit in the case. Playing insidious semantic games with the English language is naughty but it's hardly a new idea in the world of advertising and marketing.

  4. Geoff Mackenzie

    Vista Capable

    Isn't that an oxymoron anyway? Like Windows Security or Microsoft Works?

  5. Mark

    Re: Am I missing something?

    Well, the problem is that "Vista Ready" is for the version of Vista that doesn't do any of the bits that it talks about in the ads.

    No Aero.

    (OK, this would have been a longer list if MS hadn't dumped almost all of the interesting backend stuff like the new filesystem, completely new kernel etc).

    If MS hadn't sold Vista for its new shiny UI, this would have been less of a problem. But even Allchin got caught out with a new $2100 email machine because it couldn't run Vista (it was probably an ultralight with shared memory graphics). If an executive involved in the product design gets caught out, there's something wrong, wouldn't you agree?

  6. Nick Palmer
    Gates Horns


    No, "Vista Ready" was supposed to mean "can run all the bells and whistles", "Vista Capable" was intended for the poverty spec machines that couldn't run Aero. That said, I agree that the labelling was abysmally poor and probably left a lot of people misled. We have quite a few "Vista Capable" machines, but we don't care, cause, hey, we run XP, but the average user would be very easily confused.

  7. Paul R
    Gates Halo


    If it says Vista Capable, then it is capable of running Vista in one form or another. That's all.

    Oh, and Aero is not needed in any way to run Media Centre. My laptop is running Vista Home Premium, and is used for Media Center 95% of the time. It does it just fine despite it's relatively poor Intel 915GM chipset.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Artificial demand

    It's funny, but the "Vista Capable" label on my laptop makes me glad that I decided to buy a laptop in the run-up to the official Vista release so that I'd avoid being lumbered with it - I wanted to get a laptop that came with XP, not one that was able to run Vista!

  9. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Up

    @Stu Reeves

    First of all, as mentionned by Nick, the difference between Vista Ready and Vista Capable would confuse most users. Furthermore, those labels started to be applied in April 2006, way before the product was released and way before the average consumers were aware that there would be several different versions of Vista and that Vista Capable only referred to the entry level edition. So if your average consumer was looking at buying a new box in summer 2006, he would see a Vista Capable sticker and thing he'd make a smart purchase because the hardware would be able to run the next generation of MS's operating systems. The fact that it would only be able to run the stripped down version and not very well at that was far from clear.

  10. Martin Owens

    Why Sue

    When you can install ubuntu and really cause chair shortages in Redmond.

    Besides, 800Mhz, 512MB of RAM and the kind of GPU there for is just the kind of machine that runs ubuntu and compiz in a really nice and fast way. Although I'd still switch off auto indexing and save the extra second at boot time.

  11. Julian

    The Small Print

    The moral of the tale is Always Read The Small Print as Small Print = Large Risk (especially where MS hardware specifications apply).

    Personally I would say 800MHz CPU, 512MB of memory and any DirectX 9-capable graphics card specifications is not capable of running Vista. For example Vista will use up approximately 764MB just to boot Vista with a clean install, and thats not even running any other software!

    So really you would need 1.5GB unless you want a chronically slow pc.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    " this really any worse ...

    ... than advertising laptops 'from £200' "

    Nobody should be allowed to do that either.

    If a RANGE of prices is to be implied, then any seller who states the minimum price should also be required by law to state the TOP end price, immediately after, with equal prominence.

    Likewise, advertisers should be prohibited from saying "up to ... " where figures such as performance are concerned. If performance can vary, then the ONLY figure that should permissibly be quoted is the GUARANTEED minimum.

    Lets have some elementary common sense and insist on REAL figures in place of marketing hype.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's put it into perspective

    we live in a world where "under £200", "upto 50% off" and the like are commonplace in the advertising world. These are designed to get your attention and commitment to purchase a product whether it be an OS, TV or a new sofa. The moral is ALWAYS do your research. That 50% off normally applies to one or 2 usually crummy products, the laptop under £200 is out of stock/sold out blah blah.

    If we get caught out by common marketing/advertising blurb, unless it's an out and out lie, we only have ourselves to blame.

    It ain't right i know, but it ain't gonna go away either.

  14. Joel
    Gates Horns

    To all you defenders o Microsoft

    Most of us have lives that go far beyond our computers and don't care about the minutia of what Microsoft is doing to increase its revenue stream and don't want to read the fine print of anything Remond releases.

    We would like to purchase a computer and get on with our lives without having to try to figure out what meanings Microsoft has assigned to the words, "Ready" and "Capable." Either of which to the average consumer would mean it would run the freaking operating system.

  15. Gordon


    I found it quite useful. The new HP machine I bought about this time last year refused, Blankly, to run Vista with any sound as Vista drivers were not available for the chipset fitted. Since I hated the machine anyway I simply took it back, and pointed out the fact that it wasn't capable of running Vista. After a brief game of silly buggers with the salesman I walked out with a refund.

    Points for cheek go to the salesman for first trying to tell me that, so long as a desktop appeared and the OS booted, it was Vista-Capable. Then he tried to tell me that sound wasn't an important part of this particular modern multi-media operating system. Then that I had to speak to HP, as they put the sticker there. Then that I had to wait for the sound chipset makers to release Vista drivers. Finally he told me I *needed* to buy a USB sound card for sixty quid (one that, upon investigation, it transpired wasn't Vista-compatible, either)

    My answers to this were "Don't be silly", then "why would I buy a PC with a sound card and DVD drive and software if I didn't want SOUND??", "Law of strict liabilities", "Do be serious", "Will you get out of the f*cking GARDEN??".


  16. Ryan
    Paris Hilton

    @ Gordon

    "Law of strict liabilities", "Do be serious", "Will you get out of the f*cking GARDEN??".


  17. Mad Hacker

    Re: It ain't right i know, but it ain't gonna go away either.

    Um, but we should all work to make it a better world so this sort of thing will go away.

    Your attitude is like, "hey there is always crime, so why fight it?" This was blatant enough MS deserves some smacking around. In fact their whole 6 versions of their O.S. was pretty damn bad too. I mean, it really seems the only intention was to confuse users into maybe buying two versions or spending too much. Why 6 freaking versions?!!? Home Ultimate Thingy huh?

    I think they should have two versions, Pro and Server. Vista Server isn't even out yet.

  18. Mark
    Thumb Down

    @Nick Palmer

    But if Jim Allchin is falling foul of this definition (by letter rather than spirit), I would take that to be a priori evidence that there is a believable confusion.

    Hence the lawsuit going ahead.

  19. Ed

    Stupid question, but...

    Wouldn't the PC manufacturer be responsible for putting the label on the computer and not Microsoft?

  20. Morely Dotes

    @ Mad Hacker

    "Vista Server isn't even out yet."

    Praise whatever gods you worship and sacrifice some MBAs in thanks.

  21. Herby

    There are warning signs everywhere

    "Shown with optional equipment"

    "Your mileage may vary"

    "See store for details"

    "One at this price"

    and finally: "Microsoft Operating System Included at No Charge".

    If any (all should) of these causes a further investigation, you will be well served.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @ Joel

    "...Either of which to the average consumer would mean it would run the freaking operating system."

    And either CAN run the OS. For consumers that do not have the time and interest to figure out what different marketing terms mean, stores generally have employees wearing (ugly) store uniforms that are there to answer questions.

    If the sales person is inept, or misleading, or lies, your recourse should be against the store.

  23. Aubry Thonon

    English and misleading advertising

    As far as I am concerned, if there are X number of flavours of Vista and the sticker said "Vista Capable/Ready" *without specifying* which version of Vista or an easily-found-by-the-buyer explanation of what the sticker meant, then I would interpret it as "Is capable/ready for *any* version of Vista".

    MS should have included fine-prints, a flyer or some other *EASILY* found disclaimer. They didn't, so as far as I'm concerned the wider definition applies.

    You can't restrict a contract after the fact - you can't add clauses after the sale. MS f*cked up.

  24. Charles Manning


    The most hyped bits of Vista are the Aero UI and the media stuff. To Joe & Jane Sixpack, Vista == XP + Aero + media stuff. If they bought a Vista Capable machine that only runs the cut-down Vista then they'd be disappointed.

    Perhaps the manufacturers/stores should have been more honest here, but the rules for the labelling program were defined by MS and were ultimately MS's deception. As we well know, the manufacturers are required to follow MSs lead otherwise they are not permitted to use the MS labels.

    What shop is going to put "Warning: this is a crap box that only runs half-arsed version of Vista" across their adverts when their competitors do not? Nope they will just hype the box in accordance with MSs definitions.

    MS screwed up by making all these different versions under one name. To most people this is either deliberate deception or at least neglegance. It is far worse, and more confusing, than the USB2 thing of a while ago.

    If they walked into a shop and said "I want a box that runs Vista" Joe & Jane Sixpack would expect to get a box capable of running the shiny pixels they saw in the much hyped ads. Silly them: they should have said: "I want a box that runs Vista Ultimate" or whatever. Bollocks!

    As for the 200 quid Linux boxes. Those very rarely don't actually run Ubuntu or whatever. They might not run it fast, but at least they actually give you the UI etc.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Why Worry

    Windows Vista is a wonderful. MS has created an Awesome PC hardware Test Suite. I use it to stress test my *NEW* laptop all the time.

    I swear I hear the lappy sigh when I boot into Debian instead of Vista.

    Mines the trench coat with the worthless "Vista Refund Application" in the pocket.


  26. Mark

    If we're going to allow MS to get away with this

    Then why not say "people have sued for stupid reasons and gotten a win from it before, so why are you complaining?"?

  27. Colin Hutchison

    Tried it...

    ..and it didn't work. Have an old back up machine with the specs given (800mhz 500mb memory direct 9 graphics). Have a legitimate copies of both Vista Home and Vista business. Just for fun tried to install with no success - still churning after 12 hours. Guess all they have to do in court is pass a computer over to MS and say - show us !!!

    It just doesn't work on any machine below 1.5Ghz and crawls at 2.00ghz with 2GB memory.

  28. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    A certain large supermarket...

    ... was seen selling a 'complete' system (screen, keyboard etc.) with Vista Basic installed that, on inspection, did not actually have sound capabillities listed on the external packaging, and no speakers included.

    I'll bet that this had a motherboard with sound built-in, that did not have Vista drivers available for the chipset used.

    I pity the people who bought these systems. I'll bet they did not expect to not get sound!

  29. Snert Lee

    woulda, shoulda, coulda

    They could have avoided the problem by adding slightly more accurate modifiers to the label. Instead of Vista Ready and Vista Capable, perhaps something like Mostly Vista Ready and Marginally Vista Capable, or Basically Vista Ready and Barely Vista Capable would have more accurately set potential user's expectations.


    "You can't restrict a contract after the fact - you can't add clauses after the sale." --Aubry Thonon

    Bet you haven't read many EULAs nor the Terms and Conditions of any online service.

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