Sunday, April 08, 2007

Did Microsoft engage in deceptive marketing tricks to sell Vista?

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Microsoft is being sued over deceptive marketing practices that allowed PC makers promote computers as "Windows Vista Capable" even if they couldn't run the new operating system's "signature" features.

The proposed class action has been filed on behalf of Dianne Kelley of Camano Island. The issue surrounds PCs carrying the "Windows Vista Capable" stickers. These PCs were designed to meet the very basic requirements for Windows Vista Home Basic and would not be capable of making use of Vista more advanced features such as Aero, Flip 3D and media center support. In order to be able to fully leverage these features customers will need to have bought a "Premium Ready" PC in order to run Vista Home Premium or higher.
Microsoft claims that the suit ignores the lengths that the company took to make clear the differences between the different versions of Windows Vista.

I've written about this issue several times before (the last time I touched on this was in the post entitled "Is Vista Home Basic a way for vendors to sell low-spec PCs?") and my take is that having a situation where you have so many different operating systems all falling under the "Vista" banner, and then having two sets of system requirements and two logo programs for PCs is just too complicated for the average user to navigate. Not only that, but the scope for confusion and misrepresentation at the store level is also high. Microsoft then went on to market Vista based on features such as Aero which aren't guaranteed all round. Take this passage directly off the Microsoft Vista website:

In the Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista, you'll see everything you're working on more clearly through the stunning new Windows Aero interface, which includes Windows Flip 3D to help you quickly switch between windows and tasks.

Makes it sound like a done deal to me no matter what your hardware. The small print might make it clear that "some product features are only available in certain editions of Windows Vista and may require advanced or additional hardware" (the wording that you come across on the Microsoft site quite often), but the main text and images gloss over the differences. OK, a few minutes researching Vista will tell most people what they need to know about the different versions, but if all consumers researched before they purchased PCs, we probably wouldn't have the "Vista Capable" logo in the first place.

Personally, I don't feel that this deserves a lawsuit (I'm no real fan of them because the only winners are lawyers, and in this case I'm almost certain it's going to get thrown out anyway), but I do think that Microsoft needs to make it clear to customers what they need in order to see the WOW. Windows Vista is not just about Aero and Flip 3D but Microsoft does promise a lot of WOW! After all, if you bought a new PC, bought it home and didn't see the WOW, wouldn't you feel just a little bit cheated?

By the way, do you feel that the wording on the "Vista Capable" stickers is a bit, well, misleading? What does "Windows Vista Capable" mean to you?

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