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Judge Denies Class Action Status in Vista Capable Suit

Microsoft got a favorable court ruling on Wednesday in an ongoing lawsuit against its past Vista Capable marketing practices. The judge in the case, Kelley et al. v. Microsoft, denied class-action status to the plaintiffs. However, the judge did not preclude individual plaintiffs from suing Microsoft in the matter.

Vista Capable is the name of a hardware certification and marketing campaign for new PCs. Under the Vista Capable program, consumers were assured by a sticker on new PCs that the machines were capable of running Windows Vista. However, some machines with the stickers were only capable of running the Vista Home Basic version of the operating system.

Advertised features of Windows Vista, such as the Aero graphics user interface, could not be run using Vista Home Basic. Microsoft claims the marketing was clear, but the plaintiffs sued.

In today's ruling, Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court in Seattle told the plaintiffs that they had failed to prove "class-wide price inflation," according to a Seattle Times story.

The Seattle Times story described the challenge faced by the plaintiffs as follows:

"In certifying the case as a class action nearly a year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said the plaintiffs had to show the marketing program caused them to pay more for PCs only capable of running Vista Home Basic than they would have absent the Vista Capable campaign."

The ruling comes after internal Microsoft memos unearthed in the case suggested that Microsoft executives had qualms about public reactions to the Vista Capable marketing program.

In particular, Microsoft seems to have bent over backwards to appease Intel, which stood to lose money on graphics chips that were inadequate for running Vista's Aero graphics. Another memo suggested that Microsoft worked to accommodate Intel by dropping a key requirement of the Vista Capable program.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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