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'Vista Capable' case could cost Microsoft $8.5B

January 22, 2009 12:00 PM ET

The wide range on notebook upgrade costs, which in turn produced the large difference between Leffler's overall minimum and maximum numbers, were due to the more expensive replacement of a portable's graphics chip set. Leffler said that in some cases, the notebook would not be able to be upgraded sufficiently to handle any edition of Vista but Home Basic, and alluded to the need then to replace the system with a new machine.

All told, it would run Microsoft $832.7 million to upgrade the Vista Capable desktop PCs, and between $3.08 billion and $7.69 billion to fix the affected notebooks.

Those numbers dwarfed the $1.5 billion that Leffler had earlier estimated Microsoft earned from the sale of PCs marked as Vista Capable. Microsoft's lawyers may have been comparing the figures when they blasted the plaintiffs' call for upgrades. "Plaintiffs seek a remedy that would give them a Premium Ready PC even though they paid for a non-Premium Ready PC," said Microsoft in papers filed Wednesday with Pechman.

"To give class members a free upgrade to Premium Ready PCs would provide a windfall to millions because no one can know who among the class (a) intended to upgrade to Windows Vista, or (b) wanted a Premium Ready PC, or (c) would have chosen to pay more for a Premium Ready PC just so they could run Windows Aero," Microsoft argued.

This morning, lawyers for the plaintiffs and Microsoft argued before Judge Pechman as she held the case's first hearing in months. At issue: A pair of motions that Microsoft made in November that asked her to decertify the class and rule on a summary judgment to dismiss the charges.

During the hearing, Pechman said she would issue an opinion on the motions, but did not set a deadline.

The lawsuit, which has revealed insider e-mails showing how Microsoft bent to pressure from Intel over Vista Capable's hardware requirements, is currently set for an April trial.

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