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E-Mails Tell Tale of Intel, HP and Microsoft's Vista Capable Logo

The company's "Vista Capable" standard appears to have been partially influenced by decision to help Intel sell components with lower graphic capabilities.

According to recently released internal Microsoft e-mails, the company's "Vista Capable" standard appears to have been at least partially influenced by a decision to help Intel sell components with lower graphic capabilities.

"In the end, we lowered the [Vista Capable] requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earning so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics imbedded," read an e-mail written by Microsoft General Manager John Kalkman on Feb. 27, 2007. "This in turn did two things: 1. Decreased focus of OEMs planning and shipping higher-end graphics for Vista Ready programs 2. Reduced the focus by IHV's to ready great WHQL-qualified graphics drivers. We can see this today with Intel's inability to ship a compelling, full-featured 945 graphics driver for Windows Vista."

The e-mail is just one in more than 150 pages of correspondence released relating to a lawsuit alleging Microsoft's Vista-capable marketing plan misled consumers over the meaning of the term "capable." The suit was granted class-action status earlier this month.

The e-mail was first noted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has been closely following the lawsuit.

Reporter Todd Bishop noted another e-mail exchange between Microsoft's Mike Ybarra, reportedly a senior director at Microsoft, and Jim Allchin, who at the time ran Microsoft's Windows Division.

"We are caving to Intel," wrote Ybarra in an e-mail dated Feb. 1. "We worked hard the last 18 months to drive the UI [user interface] experience and we are giving this up."

"We are really burning HP -- who committed to work with us to drive the UI experience across platforms and have already made significant investments," Ybarra continued. "...We are allowing Intel to drive our consumer experience. The OEMs support our goals here...I don't understand why we would cave on this when the potential to drive the full UI experience is right in front of us."

"It might be a mistake," Allchin responded. "I wasn't involved and it is hard for me to step in now and reverse everything again."

This thread also contained the previously reported Allchin e-mail that read: "We really botched this...you guys have to do a better job with our customers than what was shown here."

According to the e-mails released, HP was not the only Microsoft partner upset with the program. In an e-mail dated Feb. 23, Microsoft's Robin Leonard, a consumer sales manager, wrote, "Wal-Mart was very vocal today regarding the Windows Vista Capable messaging. They are extremely disappointed in the fact that the standards were lowered and feel like customer confusion will ensue."

"They would like to see Microsoft reconsider the program and allow for the use of two different logos; one that is strictly a Windows Vista Home Basic Capable, and the other Windows Vista Capable," Leonard continued. "They also went so far as to say that they wished that Windows Home Basic was not even in the sku line up."

A day later, Leonard sent another e-mail: "Just a quick update...Wal-Mart has gone to HP and asked them to try and affect their production lines for the Spring assortment as much as possible and pull the logo from the base unit."

Microsoft's Steve Schiro, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Home and Retail Division, responded in part: "This feedback has been consistent from all retailers from around the word. We should not [make] consumers or retailers have to decipher what Windows Vista Capable means."

Other e-mail threads released note similar concerns from Dell and Best Buy, among others.

The e-mails also show debates within Microsoft regarding the Vista Capable logos. For example, in one e-mail dated Oct. 11, 2005, Padmanand Warrier, who is currently director of services for Windows Mobile, wrote, "This does not make sense to me...if I read this correctly, a customer could by a 'Ready PC' and think that is what he/she is getting. However, it will not even meet the requirements for running standard Vista...that's just bad."

In another thread dated Feb. 1, 2006, the company's Dina Yershova wrote, "By removing WDDM requirement we are in danger of disappointing many customers regarding the full Vista experience if they choose to upgrade after we launch."

Later in the same thread, David Berett, group manager for Redmond's Retail Business Development Division, pointed out, "Just because we have removed this requirement and widened the field does not mean that the retailer has to purchase a PC with any particular components...It is the retailer's choice if they want PCs on the shelf that can only be upgraded to Vista Basic..."

Other Microsoft employees appear resigned to the standards. In response to an e-mail sent March 1, 2006 asking whether Intel's 865-based platforms would qualify for the logo, a program manager lead, Anantha Kancheria, replied, "Based on the criteria that exist today for Capable, even a piece of junk will qualify..."

Another thread released appears to show difficulties Microsoft had in encouraging partners to develop desktops that could run Vista Premium. In an e-mail dated Feb. 14, Microsoft's Sergio Larrian wrote: "As of January, 81 percent of desktops are Windows Vista capable...only 4 percent of desktops are Windows Vista Premium capable."

Intel did not respond to the newspaper's report about the situation in general, but did comment on the e-mail from Kalkman. "We don't know who John Kalkman is," Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, told Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Bishop. "We do know he's not qualified to know anything about internal Intel financials or forecasts related to chip sets, motherboards or any other products."

A Microsoft spokesperson told Bishop: "We included the 915 chip set as part of the Windows Vista Capable program based on successful testing of (preliminary) versions of Windows Vista on the chip set and the broad availability of the chip set in the market."

A PDF of all the e-mails released by the court can be downloaded from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Web site here.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the executive editor of the 1105 Redmond Media Group's Web sites, including Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com, RedDevNews.com and VisualStudioMagazine.com, among others.

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