A federal judge late last week ordered Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to testify in the Vista Capable class-action lawsuit, overruling Microsoft's motion to prevent the executive from making a deposition around his knowledge of the marketing campaign leading up to release of the Windows Vista operating system.
Microsoft is being sued for allegedly misleading consumers with its Vista Capable logo campaign in the year prior to the Jan. 30, 2007, release of the Windows Vista operating system. Beginning on April 1, 2006, Vista Capable stickers were placed on PCs by Microsoft's OEM and retail partners—including some older PCs that lacked support for the Windows Device Driver Model (WDDM) required to run certain user interface (UI) features of Vista such as the Aero Glass graphic interface.
Ballmer discusses the Vista Capable campaign in several internal Microsoft e-mails that have been unsealed in batches since the lawsuit was given class-action status by Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle. Pechman ruled late Friday that Ballmer possessed "unique personal knowledge" of facts relevant to the case and must face questioning.
Court documents unsealed about a week ago added some new details and famous names to the explosive, inside-baseball narrative of a marketing campaign gone terribly wrong. At issue for Ballmer, according to a motion by the plaintiffs, is one-on-one contact made between the Microsoft CEO and other executives at leading high-tech and retail companies, such as Intel CEO Paul Otellini and executives at Best Buy.