Following a lawsuit which charges Microsoft with deceptive practices by allowing PC manufacturers to fix "Vista Capable" stickers onto PCs which lack the power to offer the consumer the ability to run some of Vista's most touted features, there's been a lot of discussion about what the Windows Vista Capable logo means. Is the logo program deceptive? Are consumers being duped into buying an underpowered PC? Is Microsoft to blame?
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Washington State resident Dianne Kelley in a Seattle federal court late March. The suit alleges that "a large number" of PCs labeled as Vista Capable stickers are only capavle of running Vista Home Basic, the most basic version of the new operating system. Vista Home Basic lacks a number of features present in the other versions, such as the Aero interface.
I've had concerns that it would be hard for Microsoft to make it clear to customers what is needed to run the different versions of Vista right from the start. The additional hardware requirements of the Aero interface made chooisng the right PC for Vista tricky, especially for those wanting to buy on a tight budget. It's this end of the consumer spectrum that these "Vista Capable" PCs are aimed at. They're cheaper because the system requirements that the PC needs in order for the manufacturer to be able to slap the "Vista Capable" logo on it is a lot lower than that required for a "Vista Premium Ready" sticker. Specifically the RAM, CPU and graphics processor requirements for a "Vista Capable" PC are considerably lower than that for a "Vista Premium Ready" system. Remember too that these logos are pretty small, that both have "Vista" written on them and very little else. That doesn't give the consumer a lot to go on. Add to that the hyperbole of the sales literature or sales person and you have a recipe for trouble.
Earlier this week Microsoft was accused of making changes to the wording on their website relating to Vista system requirements as a result of this lawsuit. This has turned out to be nonesense but I still can't shake that feeling that Microsoft isn't doing a good enough job of making the differences in hardware requirements clear. For example, on this page we see wording such as:
Some features available in the premium editions of Windows Vista—like the new Windows Aero user experience—may require advanced or additional hardware.
All Windows Vista Capable PCs will be able to run at least the core experiences of Windows Vista.
That "at least the core experiences of Windows Vista" part is pretty vague and unhelpful.
Some product features are only available in certain editions of Windows Vista and may require advanced or additional hardware.
The footnotes help a bit but even this page is light on specifics:
Some features—such as the new Windows Aero user interface—available in certain editions of Windows Vista require advanced or additional hardware.
Back to that vague "advanced or additional hardware" stuff again. Feels to me like even Microsoft has a poor grasp on what users really need.
So my feeling is that Microsoft needs to do better. I'd rather see a range of stickers that clearly shows the consumer what OS can be run on a particular PC. While I'm not going to go as far as call the stickers deveptive, I do think that they don't give consumers enough information to make an informed desicion.