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Blog: Microsoft Tied Its Own Hands with 'Vista Capable' Fiasco

Blog: Microsoft Tied Its Own Hands with 'Vista Capable' Fiasco

I suppose if Microsoft could turn back time, it would not have allowed Intel's 915 graphics chipset to qualify for its "Vista Capable" marketing campaign given all the trouble it caused them during the early days of Vista and is causing them now in a class-action lawsuit.

Internal e-mails from 2005-2006 are now showing that many executives at the software giant were vehemently against relaxing the Vista Capable rules to accommodate Intel's entry-level 915 graphics chips. Enough high-level people opposed it that it's amazing it happened.

Loosening up the requirements for the program, created to promote PCs in 2006 as capable of running Windows Vista when it shipped months later, allowed older Intel 915 graphics chips to qualify as Vista-ready even though the 915's did not meet the requirements of WDDM (Windows Device Driver Model), which was a prerequisite for the original Vista Capable program, and could not run Vista's new graphics interface, Aero.

Because of this, the lawsuit claims, Microsoft deceived customers by promoting slower, cheaper PCs as able to run Vista when the company allegedly knew that the machines would handle only Vista Home Basic, the least expensive version.

Internal Microsoft e-mails show a conflicted company struggling with the knowledge that by appeasing an important partner, it was misleading customers.

That the man in charge of Vista's development at the time—Jim Allchin—was one of the most exasperated about the change to Vista Capable's rules says a lot.

In a February 1, 2006 e-mail to CEO Steve Ballmer, Allchin wrote: "I am beyond being upset here. This was totally mismanaged by Intel and Microsoft. What a mess. Now we have an upset partner, Microsoft destroyed credibility, as well as my own credibility shot."

The partner that Allchin refers to is Hewlett-Packard. HP was rip-roaring mad about the relaxed Vista Capable rules because it had invested US$7 million on technologies to suit the original Vista Capable program, including building two new motherboards. An HP executive fired off e-mails to Allchin and Microsoft COO Kevin Johnson saying that Microsoft's credibility at HP had been "severely damaged" because it had "change[d] the rules at the last minute" without notifying HP.

It makes more sense now when I hear people complaining about how their HP printers don't work with Vista.

I kind of feel for Allchin here. If the man in charge of Vista didn't want the rules to change, and they got changed, one can conclude that the decision to give Intel what it wanted with its 915 graphics chips was made at the highest level.

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