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What Are The Damages From Vista-Capable PCs?

Here's another installment in the continuing saga regarding Microsoft's "Vista Capable PC" logo. This time, the question is about damages. If the buyers of these PCs were deceived because of the logo, what did it cost them? Here's wh
Here's another installment in the continuing saga regarding Microsoft's "Vista Capable PC" logo. This time, the question is about damages. If the buyers of these PCs were deceived because of the logo, what did it cost them? Here's where the lawsuit falls apart.No doubt Microsoft and Intel did something sleazy here, but it's hard to figure out who got hurt and by how much. An expert for the class-action suit has estimated that Microsoft made $1.5 billion from Windows licenses on PCs labeled as "Vista Capable." Remember, however, that these systems were sold in 2006 before the release of Vista; the money that Microsoft made was from the XP licenses that shipped with these systems. Only a user who bought the PC and later upgraded to Vista would even be affected, and most users never upgrade their OS.

So what we're looking for here are users that:

  • Bought a "Vista Capable" PC with XP on it;
  • Heard the early-2007 horror stories about Vista;
  • Decided to upgrade from XP to Vista anyway;
  • Were tripped up by a "Vista Capable" hardware issue.

For the purposes of the lawsuit, it's important to draw the line between users who were simply disappointed or frustrated by Vista -- for example, those who bought a new PC with Vista on it -- versus the users who upgraded a "Vista Capable" PC and had a specific problem that wouldn't have happened if their PC met the "real" Vista logo requirements. Microsoft's sellout to Intel on the "Vista Capable" logo was all about subpar video hardware that couldn't do Glass effects. Upgraders who found Vista unable to support third-party peripherals such as Webcams or scanners, for example, aren't really at issue here.

Assuming that the court thinks the premise of the lawsuit has any merit in the first place, Microsoft's legal and marketing departments may be taking opposite sides. I can just see it now: "Your honor, all those people would be better off with XP anyway; they would be crazy to have upgraded to Vista even if their hardware could do the job." If it ends like most class-action suits, the lawyers will leave with millions of dollars and each "Vista Capable PC" user will be eligible for a coupon worth $25 off their next Microsoft product. Woo hoo.

By far, the largest damages are to the reputations of Microsoft and Intel, who conspired to weaken the meaning of Vista Capable over the objections of many people inside their own organizations. It reinforced the image of Microsoft not caring about consumers, and showed that it was willing to double-cross partners like Hewlett-Packard in order to make Intel happy. That kind of damage can't be fixed by courts, or by money.