Microsoft Denies Vista Branding Change

In the wake of a lawsuit in Washington State alleging that Microsoft's "Windows Vista Capable" advertising was deceptive, the software giant has found itself embroiled in controversy. Last week, "The Seattle Times" reported that Microsoft quietly changed the description of its Vista Capable branding online, but the company says it has not done so. And this week, Microsoft's top lawyer said the entire issue was overblown.

"I don't think there have been a lot of problems that consumers have encountered although I think there are a few lawyers and law firms that have pursued an action that are presenting such a picture," Microsoft general counsel and senior vice president Brad Smith said Monday. "I feel good about the information that we provided."

Earlier this month, a consumer lawsuit filed in Washington State alleged that Microsoft's Windows Vista Capable branding was deceptive, because computers that qualify for that logo only offer basic Vista capabilities. Most of Microsoft's advertising for Vista includes such advanced features as the Aero user interface and Media Center, both of which require a PC that is certified as "Windows Vista Premium Ready."

"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 lawsuit reads. Lawyers for the plaintiff are seeking class action status for the lawsuit and are asking for damages.

Smith says the allegation is baseless. "Most of the PCs are able to run the kinds of versions like \[Vista\] Home Premium version that have virtually all of the bells and whistles," he said. "Even the machines that are not able to run something like \[Vista\] Home Premium are able to run a version that provides many if not most of the major advances that are important to consumers."

Adding to the controversy, "The Seattle Times" last week reported that Microsoft had quietly changed descriptions of the "Vista Capable" logo program on its Web site. Microsoft, however, denies that charge and says that nothing has changed. "We haven't changed anything," a Microsoft spokesperson said. According to the company, the newspaper was comparing language in a press release with language on its Web site describing the program. "The Web site hasn't changed since the program was launched last year, with the exception of tenses that reflect the fact that the product is now available."

Microsoft's press release from the Vista launch notes that PCs that qualify for the Vista Capable logo are "powerful enough to run Windows Vista." However, the company's Web site elaborates on that, noting that Vista Capable PCs may be unable to run high-end features like Aero.

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