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The Courts Government Microsoft News

"Vista Capable" Lawsuit Is Now a Class Action 225

Posted by kdawson
from the go-to-the-head-of-the-class dept.
An anonymous reader notes an update in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporting that the lawsuit against Microsoft's "Windows Vista Capable" marketing campaign has been granted class-action status. We discussed the company's internal misgivings with this campaign a while back. The suit alleges that "...Microsoft unjustly enriched itself by promoting PCs as 'Windows Vista Capable' even when they could only run a bare-bones version of the operating system, called 'Vista Home Basic.'" In the 2006 pre-holiday season, Microsoft had placed "Windows Vista Capable" stickers on machines to keep the sale of Windows XP machines going after Vista was delayed. Microsoft didn't lose out totally in the recent ruling — the article notes that the judge "narrowed the basis on which plaintiffs could move forward with their claims."
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"Vista Capable" Lawsuit Is Now a Class Action

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @02:18AM (#22533122)
    Since when is Microsoft selling PC's? Or did they send someone around to go put those stickers on the machines?
    I'd have thought the hardware manufacturers would be the ones who didn't want sales to fall.

    I remember the same sort of campaign when XP came out. The laptop I bought then had an "XP capable" (or something that sounded similar) sticker on the box, even though it came with ME installed and with a voucher for a cheap XP Home upgrade when it came out. After having upgraded it and having seen the performance under XP, I reformatted it and downgraded. Not to ME, but to Win2000, which it still runs fine.
  • Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rindeee (530084) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @02:18AM (#22533124)
    I hate class action suits. They do next to no good for the consumer save for putting a couple (literally) bucks in the pocket, benefit lawyers almost exclusively and in the end make products cost more. I hate Vista, and I don't care for (and therefor do not use the products produced by) Microsoft but this is going to do little good in the long run.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DustyShadow (691635) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @02:39AM (#22533218) Homepage
    True but without class actions are really the only way to punish companies when it would be way too costly for a single person to go after them. I consider class actions to be necessary evils.
  • Ridiculous. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Brieeyebarr (938678) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @03:07AM (#22533320) Homepage
    What ever happened to researching products before buying them? Is the average consumer so strapped for time that they just purchase the first product to fall under their gaze? My point is that Microsoft had made available information regarding these 'Vista capable' stickers before they started showing up (http://arstechnica.com/journals/microsoft.ars/2006/3/31/3421 [arstechnica.com].) The stickers say "Designed for Windows XP", Goddamnit!
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @03:10AM (#22533332) Journal
    [CA's only benefit lawyers] True but without class actions are really the only way to punish companies when it would be way too costly for a single person to go after them. I consider class actions to be necessary evils.

    Agreed. It's about the only way to punish big greedy companies enough to make them think twice the next time. I wish we could find an alternative, but so far none exists. If somebody can come up with a better way, please state it. What we have in CA's is better than fly-spec individual suits. Basically this is the current options:

    A. Move a very little bit of perpetrator's money to consumer (individual suits)
    B. Move a lot of perpetrator's money to lawyers and a little bit to consumers. (class-action)
    C. Don't do anything.
    D. Make Gates and Balmer do the Chicken Dance on American Idol.

    Until E is invented, B is the best choice. (Okay, D is not viable, I admit. Besides, Balmer seems to like dancing funny.)
         
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DilutedImage (769059) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @03:13AM (#22533344)
    While I agree that class-action suits may be a necessary evil in cases where consumer safety is concerned, cases like this only punish consumers. Any costs incurred by Microsoft will surely be passed along to their customers, and their customers will comply. After all, what choice do they have? Linux is beyond the abilities of the common consumer, and they'll still need Office if they migrate to Mac, so it's a catch 22. And while the consumer suffers, Microsoft's only hardships will be deciding where to distribute their costs, and what to do with all those Vista Capable stickers.

    The hardware companies are sure to love this though. When word spreads that more powerful hardware is required to run Vista, more people will spend the extra money for the higher-end models.
  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @03:47AM (#22533452) Journal

    What ever happened to researching products before buying them?

    So people shouldn't be able to make manufacturers and vendors live up to their promises? Of ot saus "Vista Capable", with no limitations, no "fine print", no disclaimers, then it should be capable of running Vista - not some crippled version.

  • by paganizer (566360) <thegrove1@nOSPAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:32AM (#22533574) Homepage Journal
    For some reason it still bothers me when people claim to have "downgraded" to Win2k. it's like saying you "Downgrade" from Vista to XP. How can it be a downgrade when your computer runs faster, you have less problems, etc?
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:46AM (#22533630)

    B. Move a lot of perpetrator's money to lawyers and a little bit to consumers. (class-action)
    Tier the rate lawyers get paid. For awards up to, say, $1 million, they get 33%. For the fraction of awards between $1-$10 million, they get 10%. Between $10-$100 million they get 3%. Over $100 million, they get 1%. Over $1 billion they get 0.1% ($1 million per $1 billion awarded). Right now they get 33% of everything, which is flat out ridiculous. A class action reduces the lawyers' workload by taking advantage of efficiencies of scale, their compensation should be reduced to reflect that.

    Also, punitive awards should go to the government - either regulatory agencies or law enforcement, not the victims. The victims already get compensatory damages to compensate them for their suffering. The punitive damages are designed to punish the guilty, and should go to society as recompense for violating the public trust. The U.S. court system is currently biased against punitive damages because often even when the defendant deserves to have to pay, the victim doesn't deserve the money so the court system errs on the side of the defendant. This change would help fix that.

  • oh yeah... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DSVaughan (1007255) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:48AM (#22533638)
    Recently bought a laptop that came with vita home premium. Look at the "Windows Experience Index", and am getting about 60 percent of what I could be. Brand new laptop, meets all recommended requirements (except video card) for vista ultimate, and I still only get a 60%. I also see computers that are less than a quarter as powerful as that laptop being sold with vista on them. There should be at least a minimum spec increase to certify the hardware as vista enabled. Like you can run XP Pro on as low as a 233 MHz core, with 128 Mb ram, and 1.5 GB of hard drive. It will run, just about as fast as the mold growing in Antarctica. It runs, but you can't do more than idle without it freezing up on you. Therefore, in my opinion, you should change the minimum system requirements so that you could at least open notepad within 5 minutes.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coaxial (28297) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:51AM (#22533646) Homepage

    I hate class action suits. They do next to no good for the consumer save for putting a couple (literally) bucks in the pocket, benefit lawyers almost exclusively and in the end make products cost more.
    You don't understand the point of class action lawsuits.

    It's not compensation, it's punishment. Punishment for bad behavior is good. It makes companies think twice about conducting bad behavior in the future. It's essentially a civil fine. Lawyers making money? Well look, for members of the class, it is essentially free money. You fill out online form, and then you wait for a check. That's it.

    but this is going to do little good in the long run.
    If it makes them not knowingly [slashdot.org] engage in an extremely confusing (at best) and deceptive (at worse) campaign, then it would have achieved it's goal.

    "B-b-b-but it's a lawsuit! and Lawyers are Evil(tm)!!!11!eleventy-one!11!" you say. If you don't bring civil suits, how do you expect private citizens assert their rights and correct the behavior of those who have wronged them? Unless of course, you think that people shouldn't be able to defend themselves. Do you believe that?
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:57AM (#22533660) Homepage
    Entirely false. Class action law suits do not add one cent to the price of a product. I am sick of this same lie being spread over and over again, just like piracy does not add one cent to the price of a product. It is all supply and demand, greedy corporations charge as much as they possible can, there is absolutely no limit to their greed, 100%, 1000%, 10000% markups not a problem at all.

    It is well known that M$ puts a huge margin of the price of windows, which is why it so agressively and currptly purseus a monopoly to protect the absurd profit margins. So the more 'profit' eating, capital reserve draining class action law suits the better, who cares if it only enricghes a bunch of lawyers, as long as it bleeds M$ dry, and maybe, just maybe, finally forces some respect out of M$ for the customer.

  • by asd-Strom (792539) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:04AM (#22533686)
    Well why stop there? Use Windows 95, or perhaps even DOS. It runs faster and you have less problems.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamesh (87723) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:34AM (#22533764)

    Also, punitive awards should go to the government - either regulatory agencies or law enforcement, not the victims.

    I've had the same thoughts before, that the defendant deserves to get punished, but that the victim doesn't deserve to be rewarded to that degree. My solution would be that the victim gets to nominate a charity and the money gets directed to them.

    I wonder how that would change our court-happy society - if the victim knew that even if they won, they'd only more or less get compensated for their losses, they probably wouldn't get the punitive damages themselves.
  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IBBoard (1128019) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:24AM (#22533910) Homepage
    But it is "Vista capable", just not "Full Vista-with-all-eye-candy-features capable".

    As much as I dislike Microsoft products, I can't see how they have a basis for this law suit.

    Is the machine incapable of running Vista? No, just the flashy bits that aren't a requirement of the OS. Did Microsoft have a separate designation for machines that could run Vista better? Yes, it was "Premium Ready [microsoft.com]". Is Vista completely unusable because of their system specs? No (or not any more than normal).

    It isn't as if they've been sold a "High Def capable TV" that only has 640x480 res, they've been sold the equivalent of a 720i/p TV - it is capable of what is classed as "High Def", just not the really high HD because it is only "capable" of some minimum requirement to be called what it is called.

    As a similar situation: Am I capable of running a marathon? Probably. Would I do very good at it? No, because I'm not ready, not trained and not fit enough.

    People need to get a dictionary and learn the definition of the word "capable".
  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <.moc.krahsehtwaj. .ta. .todhsals.> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:41AM (#22533974) Homepage Journal

    I have one of these "Vista Capable [slashdot.org]" computers. To be honest, I bought it because I knew what the sticker meant. Of course my intention was to run Linux (which it does, thank you very much). I mean, it was extremely cheap and that was the sole reason to buy it.

    That's not why I posted this. The box did came with fine print (added later as a sticker), and I am still pissed that I didn't copy the whole text because it really basically said: "Don't run Vista on me".

  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:48AM (#22533996)
    Of ot saus "Vista Capable", with no limitations, no "fine print", no disclaimers, then it should be capable of running Vista

    Which it can.

    How is it crippled? It's missing a few nice graphical effects and a couple of incredibly useless extra programs. OHNOES LAWSUIT.

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @07:16AM (#22534090)
    What would change?

    People wouldn't have incentives (charity? oh, come on!) to go after the perpetrators. I'm not talking about the cost of the lawsuit itself, but the alternative cost. Basically doing something better than hauling your behind to court. Instead of that you could go to work make an extra buck, or spending quality time with your family. It doesn't really matter, almost all activities will be more benficial for the potential plaintiff than going to court without hope of compensation.
  • Now, seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @07:27AM (#22534134)
    The whole point of me (and maybe some of us) searching for alternatives (OS/2 etc.) and eventually come to know and use Linux is that I (and perhaps others) find "Windows capable" a lie -- not just Vista.

    How many did not feel frustrated remembering an old computer could do things a Windows one could not? How many didn't feel restrained by having a tumor-growth-like GUI posing as OS? In which you have to use an entire application to change OS settings? In which capabilities are not available on a system-wide basis but only in a few special apps? In which implementations were weak because no developer could have access to "undocumented" (i.e., secret) features? In which there were taps permitting eavesdropping by some foreign (i.e. American) institution? In which one had to forcefully pirate an app, not because of money but because there was simply NO simple way of paying (paypal and credit card buying didn't exist then)?

    And the most evil one: one situation where one does not want to pirate -- that is, violate copyrights -- and everybody does it, because the software maker clearly benefits from the net marketing, and so the one who wants to abide by the law is actually deemed a fool.

    It has been argued over and over that a new Windows version is a way of pushing newer hardware onto customers thus effectively sucking their pocket's money. And you know what?

    I think I myself warned about these things a thousand times -- only to be scorned. Now Microsoft could walk free from this, IMO, because they can safely say everyone has been warned about all that.

    If you were fooled and misled, it's all your fault. Don't blame the lion if you get into its jail and put your head into his mouth. I actually get angry at those people who complain about Vista; I think it's only fair that they lose their money -- no, they should be fined for wasting public money by using justice after choosing themselves to believe in vendor propaganda while calling us "zealots".

  • by nodan (1172027) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @08:12AM (#22534306)
    Of course, MS is not selling hardware. In a reasonable world, users should not care too much about the operating system but should care about the hardware performance and the applications they can run. However, the world is not reasonable at all and the "Vista Capable" campaign is the usual spread of fear and exploitation of computer users. Fear, because it implies not having Vista might be a disadvantage, and exploitation, because people are asked to pay for stuff they don't need at all which even works to their disadvantage because Vista consumes way too much resources. What most people do with their computers it internet surfing, email, text documents and possibly spreadsheets. There is no need at all to have Vista or any MS operating system for this. Only games are a bit of a problem but I predict this improves as soon as enough users are migrating to other platforms.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @08:15AM (#22534320) Journal

    I don't actually have the Crysis box but every game I seen with a minimum set of requirements on it ALSO listed a recommended spec.

    MS with this Vista advertising campaign made a simple mistake, they designed a sticker that was not clear enough about what was promised.

    With PC games, a reasonable person would assume that if you see who different specs then it is obvious that this means that the game will look perform less well on this lower hardware. You would only expect it to run well on the recommended spec.

    MS left this out, they basically said "This PC can run Vista". No further explenation was given. It is clear how unclear this was by the fact that MS later added extra information on its website to explain what it meant.

    Basically MS screwed up. Now it is for the legal to decide wether people should have known better, wether this is all just a simple misunderstanding or wether MS is guilty of false advertising. Considering MS own people have had doubts during the development of this campaign I think MS has a case to answer.

    Advertisers always push the truth as far as it can go. Remember the claims that linux can run on a 386? Why sure it can. The kernel. Run a full distro on it and prepare for slideshow hell. Run windows on the minimum amount of memory? Sure you can, just hope you never have to anything remotely tasking.

    It is possible that MS marketting went to far in this case. They could have put on the sticker "This PC is Vista Basic ready". They didn't. They didn't for the simple reason that this would have been less attractive to consumers. Personally I think truth is important, yes "The PC is Vista ready" is the truth, but "This PC is Vista Basic ready" is the greater truth. Sometimes even when you are telling the truth you can be lying.

  • by memfrob (157990) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @09:32AM (#22534772) Homepage

    In fact Microsoft should have learned from past experience and done things better this time.

    Well, let's see... last time they made money hand-over-fist, so why would they change things around?

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @10:12AM (#22534978) Homepage
    Not too long ago, I decided to install MacOS 10.4 on a crappy little test machine at work, an old 400mhz G4. I was expecting very cut-down graphics and little-to-no effects, but the ancient thing actually picked up my widescreen LCD's native resolution (something Windows still struggles with), and all the smooth eye-candy was intact. Windows slide and fade in and out of view, transparency works like a charm, even the dashboard runs pretty smoothly (slight stuttering during the fade, but nothing terrible).

    So why is it that a stinky old 400mhz dinosaur running MacOS can run smoother than a bleeding-edge quad-core dual-graphics beast running Vista ? My graphics cards' pixel shaders could probably emulate that 400mhz Mac faster than real-time.

    Microsoft really screwed up with Aero Glass. Vista itself might eventually become a decent shell, just like XP did after SP1/2, but Aero Glass will always suck.

    Teenagers in the 90's were writing slicker graphics demos on 486'es than what Vista does on a C2Quad.
  • by jbengt (874751) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @10:23AM (#22535064)

    Name one thing XP pro can do that XP home cannot that home users would be interested in.
    1. Remote desktop
    2. Multi-processor (2) support
    3. IIS web server
    4. File-level access controls
    5. Multi-language support
    6. Various networking features (granted, in 2001 these wouldn't have been very popular at home)

    Oops, you only asked for one. Anyway,

    Some more here: http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/windowsxp_home_pro.asp/ [winsupersite.com]
    and here: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/howtobuy/choosing2.mspx/ [microsoft.com]

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @10:53AM (#22535278)
    It's just the old blame-shifting game: if anybody is deceived by msft, it is the fault of the deceived for being stupid. It is never msft's fault.

    Sure, the stickers only mentioned Vista. Nothing about Basic. Never mind that the FTC had ordered msft in 2001 not to engage in such deceptive practices.

    Honesty is too much to expect from msft. Any msft shill will tell you that. Msft advocates seem to believe that msft should be allowed to lie. According the msft advocates, that is just good 'ol American capitalism. Anybody who objects to msft's standard behavior of lying, cheating, ballot-stuffing, bribing, legal-system abusing, bogus patent filing, FUDding, and so on; is obviously an a commie, anti-American, anti-capitalism, and so on.
  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @12:06PM (#22535832) Homepage
    I have a Vista system and a MacBook. The two systems are pretty much the same when it comes to usability. Windows Vista has the edge in some ares, Apple in others.

    Apple definitely has the edge in configuration. Microsoft has to get its act together and recognize that UPnP is dead. Bonjour is deployed, works and is supported by a huge number of hardware providers. It took me minutes to hook my Mac up to my network attached printers and Windows Home server.

    Microsoft has the edge when a configuration goes wrong though. 95% of the time the Mac just works. But when they don't work there is no information to work from.

    Vista has the lead in certain aspects of the windowing system. Aero is prettier. The menu on the top of the window works better on a large display than the Mac menu at the top of the screen. On a laptop I think its the other way round. But why not make this a user choice on both platforms?

    The Mac is more consistent, but that can bite you in unexpected ways. The Dock is configured through the settings menu, not through a menu associated with the dock, I find that counter-intuitive. Desktop clutter seems to be a worse problem than on my XP laptop. I feel short of pixels even though the screen is actually bigger than my thinkpad.

    On the class action suit, well Apple has been on the receiving end of class action suits as well. Every computer company has. The outcome of these suits appears to be entirely unrelated to the cause, the lawyers have ever incentive to reach a quick settlement where they get a huge payout and the customers are left with nothing more than some vouchers that give money off another purchase.

    Slashdot as ever behaves like Rush Limbaugh reacting to partisan scandals. Allegations that a Democrat engaged in certain behavior sends him into apoplexy (e.g. Clinton boinks an intern), allegations that a Republican did something of the sort causes him to attack the press (e.g. McCain accused of corruptly intervening on behalf of a lobbyist he may or may not have been committing adultery with). Moral indignation loses its force when it is partisan.

  • Re:oh yeah... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SEMW (967629) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @12:21PM (#22535930)

    Look at the "Windows Experience Index", and am getting about 60 percent of what I could be.
    Ummm, 60% of what?

    There is no maximum value. To quote Raymond Chen: "Imagine what the world would be like if there were a max value. What happens if the max is 10 and you buy a 10 computer, and then an even faster computer comes out next year - what rating does that computer yet?" (source [msdn.com]).

    The max you can get on today's absolute best hardware may be around 5.9, but that's not the top end of a scale -- it will certainly increase with time as better hardware comes out and WEI is updated with newer benchmarking tecniques.

    Slightly more relevent would be if you said you'd got less than 2, since 2 is what MS claims is the minimum for "Premium Capable".

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