A lawsuit filed in US District Court yesterday alleges that Microsoft unfairly and incorrectly labeled machines as "Windows Vista Capable" when said systems were only capable of running Vista Home Basic. According to the complaint:
"[The PCs in question] cannot run, or run poorly, with Vista Home Premium… the least expensive version of Vista that includes Vista's heavily marketed and most popular features. The enhanced graphics, media center, and remote control that have been marketed and advertised by Microsoft as 'Vista' are available only on Home Premium and more expensive versions of the software… In sum, 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.'"
Microsoft, unsurprisingly, takes some issue with these claims, and has noted that it provides comprehensive information regarding the features of various Vista versions. One could argue that Microsoft helped create this problem by seeding the market with so many different versions of the operating system, but that's almost beside the point; the interesting question this lawsuit raises is what, exactly, makes Windows Vista "Windows Vista"?
My gut feeling on this one is that it'll go precisely nowhere. Microsoft is hardly the first company to offer the same basic product with variations or features at different price points, and while there may be a handful of marketing-friendly features lacking from Vista Home Basic compared to Vista Home Premium, there are a thousand or more underlying technology advances and upgrades that Microsoft can point to and say "this makes it Vista." In the end, this lawsuit says more about the inherent problems of marketing a new OS to the large segment of the population that is not technology-savvy than it does about any alleged bait-and-switch tactics.