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Microsoft dismissed enthusiasts in Vista marketing, company e-mails show

Windows marketing chief worried that info about Vista would 'confuse the masses'

March 2, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Spelling out which features of Windows Vista would work on a given PC might be useful to early adopters, but it would only "confuse the masses," a high-level Microsoft Corp. manager argued more then a year before the operating system shipped, according to internal company e-mails.

In a short exchange in November 2005, Brad Goldberg, then the general manager of the Windows product management group, dismissed a colleague's suggestion that Microsoft create documents listing what components and features of Vista would work on specific PCs slated to go on sale the following year.

"The average consumer would not know whether [s]he needs Aero-Glass or Windows Defender or not," Goldberg said in a Nov. 9, 2005, message. "Retail sales person[s] cannot explain what Aero Glass is or what it will do for them four [to] six months prior to Vista."

The message was just one of hundreds made public last week in a class-action lawsuit over the Windows "Vista Capable" marketing plan.

Goldberg was replying to mail from Jim Hebert, another manager, who had expressed concerns about the marketing program, which targeted PC buyers shopping for machines starting in the second half of 2006. Vista Capable was an attempt by Microsoft to encourage PC purchases by promising that the machines could later be upgraded to Vista.

According to an e-mail written earlier on Nov. 9 by Hebert, he and Goldberg had talked on the telephone about Vista's marketing -- at the time, the program was called "Vista Ready" internally. They discussed several issues, including documents that would specify which parts of Vista would and would not run on any given PC. Hebert described them as "What Vista features are supported by this machine" and "What Vista features are not supported by this machine."

Not practical, countered Goldberg in comments appended to Hebert's list. "We don't have specs for all model numbers, and there is no way someone like Dell would do this," Goldberg said.

In his follow-up message to Hebert, Goldberg expanded on the reasons why a works/doesn't work Vista checklist was a bad idea. He cited consumer indifference and sales representative ignorance, then acknowledged that it wasn't Windows that brought people into the store in the first place.

"I do not see any benefit of providing such a list to customers, when they are in stores buying a PC, not an OS," he said. "Trying to 'educate' customers about features of an OS that is not available may very well confuse them and may cause them to delay their purchase -- the exact opposite of what we want to see."

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