Microsoft exec: Vista-Capable PCs are "junk"

Top Microsoft execs have admitted that "Windows Vista Capable" PCs, which can run only the most basic version of Vista, are "junk," with Jim Allchin, then co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, saying in an email, "We really botched this."

So reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week in a report about a class action suit, which charges that Microsoft misled consumers into buying the Windows Vista Capable PCs, even though the PCs couldn't run the most important features of the then-new operating system.

The revelations came in a hearing last Friday before U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, who will decide whether suit should go forward.

Lawyer Jeffrey Tilden, arguing in favor of the class action suit, read a damning series of emails from Microsoft employees and top executives. Mike Nash, who is now a corporate vice president for Windows product management, wrote in an email message, "I PERSONALLY got burnt...Are we seeing this from a lot of customers?...I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine."

Jim Allchin, who was at the time of the Vista Capable PC push the co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, wrote in his mail, "We really botched this...You guys have to do a better job with our customers."

And an unnamed employee wrote in an email, "Even a piece of junk will qualify" to be called Windows Vista Capable.

The employee is right ---- Windows Vista Capable PCs really are junk. They can't, for example, run Aero Glass, which Microsoft touts as one of the most important features of Vista. They also can't run Windows Media Center and plenty else as well.

Microsoft cooked up the Vista Capable bait-and-switch scheme because Vista's release was delayed until after the 2006 holiday buying season. Computer makers were worried that the delay would depress holiday sales. So Microsoft came up with a labelling plan that computer makers could slap on low-end PCs. Anyone buying one of the Vista Capable PCs could get a free or low-cost upgrade to Vista once Vista shipped.

Consumers weren't told, however, that the PCs would only be capable of running Windows Home Basic, a stripped-down, nearly useless version of Vista that is inferior to XP.

The whole scheme was sleazy, and from the emails read in court, it's clear that even Microsoft execs knew it was little more than a bait-and-switch routine. At this point, Microsoft should issue a mea culpa, settle the suit by paying up, and move on. If the company doesn't, expect more similar revelations as the suit proceeds.

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