Update: Microsoft says it didn't change 'Vista Capable' description

The move follows the filing of a lawsuit over its OS marketing program

A week after Microsoft Corp. was sued over a 2006 marketing program, the company denied reports that it had tweaked the online description of what a "Vista Capable" machine can actually do.

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 late last month, 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.

Last week, reports circulated saying Microsoft had modified its definition of Vista Capable from an initial description published in May 2006 to a more specific rendition on the company Web site.

On the Web, Microsoft's definition of Vista Capable noted that: "Some features available in the premium editions of Windows Vista -- like the new Windows Aero user experience -- may require advanced or additional hardware."

Kelley's lawsuit, however, claims that anything other than the sticker was moot. "Central to Microsoft's deceptive practices was its failure to indicate on 'Windows Vista Capable' stickers that a PC certified as 'Windows Vista Capable' but lacking the designation 'Premium Ready,' would run only Home Basic and thus would provide few of the features that make Vista attractive to consumers, such as the 'Aero desktop experience' and media center," the suit reads.

Today, Microsoft denied that it had doctored the Web site after the lawsuit was filed March 29. "We have made no changes to how we communicated 'Vista Capable' in the past few months," said a Microsoft spokeswoman, "other than to make some tense changes to indicate that [Vista] had shipped."

Reports of anything different, she said, were untrue. "They're comparing a press release [from May 2006] and the Web site. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Of course there will be slight differences between the descriptions."

Most analysts and computer makers have dismissed as unrealistic the Vista Capable memory minimum of 512MB. OEMs such as Dell, for example, have long recommended four times as much RAM, 2GB, while others have touted 4GB as the operating system's "sweet spot."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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