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Tracing Microsoft's Vista Capable Debacle

How did it all go so wrong? By reconstructing the timeline of events in a marketing campaign that landed Microsoft in court, ChannelWeb gives you a startling inside look at a legacy of bad decisions and worse implementation.

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Aside from showing us that Microsoft executives are pretty bad at spelling, the electronic discovery unsealed in the Windows Vista Capable class-action suit offers a startling inside look at the process by which the software giant conceived, strategized and carried out a marketing campaign that ultimately landed it in court.

While the discovery itself is a hodge-podge of e-mails and charts in no chronological order, it's possible to reconstruct the timeline of major events in the Vista Capable campaign. By doing so, we can trace the way Microsoft pushed through OEM resistance and the confusion of its own executives to brand thousands of PCs with the logo of an operating system the computers were not capable of running smoothly without major hardware upgrades.

What we discover is that Microsoft initially planned to run a single Vista marketing program ahead of the new operating system's launch, one that labeled PCs as 'Ready' to run Vista only if they met the hardware requirements for doing so. The problem was that not many PCs had the right hardware, so Microsoft concocted a confusing 'two-tier' marketing campaign that added a second, lower threshold category called 'Vista Capable.'

Unfortunately, Vista Capable PCs weren't really capable of running Vista. Microsoft's rationale was that a hardware upgrade on Vista Capable PCs would make them capable of running Vista.

While the Vista Capable addition led to far more PCs on retail shelves and elsewhere getting a Vista logo, it also resulted in a great deal of resistance and confusion on the part of Microsoft's OEM and retail partners, and even among its own executives and sales staff.

And ultimately, it resulted in a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers against Microsoft, as owners of PCs with Vista Capable stickers discovered that their purchases weren't capable of running much of Vista at all.

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