Windows Vista Capable logo confusing to customers

Windows Vista Capable logo confusing to customers

Summary: 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?

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TOPICS: Windows
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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 Vista Capable logodiscussion 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.

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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.

And:

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.

Also:

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. 

Thoughts?

Topic: Windows

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38 comments
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  • It isn't just the processing power

    Many "Vista" capable computers are not actually Vista capable due to hardware incompatibilities. You can qualify all you want and state that "it isn't a Vista problem" that xyz hasn't released a driver yet. If I am going to slap a vista capable sticker on a machine, I had better make sure it can ACTUALLY run Vista, not just rely on the theoretical analysis tool that gives a mediocre "thumbs up".

    I think MS will get some bad press, but this won't really go anywhere. Sure Home Basic is missing the features 95% want, but at this point, MS and dell and HP and Leveno have their money, so what do they care. The only advice I have for any of them, before you throw more good money after bad, take a cutting edge Linux distro for a spin, see if it works for you. Vista Capable in Windows world means you will be disapointed, Vista Capable in the Open Source world means fast responsive and more than you need.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • I you are a Widnows user, there is ...

      ... no reason not to buy your next machine with Vista pre-installed. The only gotcha is that buying a machine without AERO capability will be a disappointment. Microsoft will gladly permit you to upgrade the "Home Basic" computer you just bought to Home Premium (for $80) but you might as well buy Home Premium with the computer.
      M Wagner
      • Except you'd have to upgrade the memory and graphics card

        The issue is the machine bearing the Vista Ready Logo do not have the hardware requirements to run Home Premium.

        So you buy a home basic machine on a Vista Ready and not Vista Premium Ready machine and you have to buy a new graphics card and up your memory. People who do this are not technically competent so they are not going to be able to install the new hardware or possibly even upgrade the OS- so they will have to pay for those services. BestBuy/GeekSquad charges $129 in store ($249 in home) to upgrade the OS and $39 in store ($159 in home) per hardware install. So just the install costs, if you take your computer to the store, is going to be $207. Then you have the price of the memory and new card itself at $120 and then the memory , if you are smart you'd add 1 GB more which will run you 80-150 instead of just the extra 512 MB which will run 50-80. Okay lets add it all together (I'll use 80 as the cost of memory and use the in store prices for the services)- $487 if you take that computer to BestBuy to be upgraded!!!!

        You may not see an issue with that but I can certainly see where many would have an issue with that.

        The short of it- The OEMS should just not offer Windows Home Basic at all- just start offering the low end of the home market Linux computers.
        Edward Meyers
  • a no win situation

    MS put out several versions of Vista, and folks complain because it is confusing.
    They keep it simple with 2 classifications for machines, people complain because it is confusing.
    If MS were to make only machines that can run Aero certified, people would complain because MS was 'tricking' them into buying a more expensive machine then they needed. Then they would sue MS because Dell sold them a certified machine, but the video card, while technically able to run Aero, does a bad job at it.
    mdemuth
    • Yes and No

      It was all about attempting to boost Christmas sales, pure and simple. Vista was going to miss the Holiday deadline, so they came out with the scam...er program to slap Vista capable on anything, offer "free" upgrades that they figured would not nearly be redeemed at the rate it was, and hoped to pick up the marketplace. It backfired, and the semantics game of "Vista Capable" vs "Vista Ready" is the problem.

      People who don't read ZDNet and were unaware (imo) correctly assumed that Capable meant it would work fine. It doesn't (what good is a Vista machine that takes 5 minutes to boot, 6 minutes to open an application and is swapping to HD 100% of the time?).

      The small print will cause this to go nowhere, and a few million more peeved customers, who cares, it isn't like they can return the machines. Most will stay with XP, some will upgrade their hardware, and next go round, many will likely go Apple out of spite.

      I think that the OEMs are 50:50 responsible with MS for this just such a wonderful marketing idea.

      MS can have multiple versions if they want, but there should be one sticker and one sticker only, for Vista Ultimate, and only computers that were projected be able to run Vista Ultimate with Aero should have had stickers. Yes, that would reduce sales, but would have been the high road for marketing.

      Does Vista Home Basic actually satisfy a general user's feature needs? I think that's where the the problem lies, they get a lot less functionality than XP. Anyone would be peeved.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • Not really

        Have you actually used a Vista? Even on low-end, modern machines there is no '5 minutes to boot, 6 minute' anything. Pure FUD on your part. Sad really, that you need to make up stuff just to bash MS.
        And folks like you have been saying 'this is the year of Apple/Linux' for years; you're worse then the boy who cries wolf, because at least in that story, the wolf shows up.

        The deal was straight forward; One high end sticker that does everything, one lower end that may or may not run the frills. Just like buying a car, the base package doesn't come with all the trimmings.

        Home Basic originally would satisfy those looking to upgrade their existing, older XP boxes. With MS backporting so much, the need to upgrade is making Home Basic rather useless.
        And in what way is Home Basic less functional than XP? Or is that just more FUD your throwing around?
        mdemuth
        • Any 512 K Vista Ready Computer

          is swapping to the hard drive almost constantly. Not FUD, simply the case. Vista wants to cache more than that, but hits the memory ceiling. I could post 200 reviews that state using 512K on any stickered "Vista Capable" machine IS going to frustrate the heck out of the user. Easier to call me a FUDster though.

          Add in a few applications that autostart and start filling up the taskbar and you are in for a slow experience. Find me a review where someone is satisfied with their Vista experience that does not recommend or require more than 512K.

          I didn't say it was the year of anything in my post, but thanks for trying to go off on a tangent.

          Two stickers was meant to cause confusion, and allow for OEMs to sell underpowered hardware with the illusion that it would run Vista just fine. Like I said, the small print will clear them of legal issues, but it will leave a bad taste in their mouth.

          As for what Vista Home is lacking,
          http://windows.about.com/od/windowsvista/p/vista_homeprem.htm

          [B]Some of the features it offers that Basic doesn't are Windows Aero (a new visual style and interface), Windows Media Center, Windows Movie Maker HD, Windows DVD Maker, Windows Meeting Space, and Windows SideShow.[/B]

          Home Basic is available for one reason only. Since all those $399 desktops and $499 notebooks must have a Windows version that can run, Home Basic is available. Since it won't run any other version of Vista, the only option for the industry is to a) throw it all out or b) pre-install another OS.

          If Linux didn't exist, You would not see Home Basic, MS wants you to purchase Home Premium at a minimum.

          TripleII
          TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
          • Talking about 512K does make you a fudster ;)

            You should update to 512MB :)
            Joeman57
          • Eeek, you are right!

            Thanks for pointing that out, less amunition to tangent off off. any Vista computer with [512Mbytes] is going to leave the user frustrated, or are all these people lying?

            http://www.pricegrabber.com/rating_getprodrev.php/masterid=32647873/form_keyword=/

            I found references that MS wanted to state 1 gig was the minimum for Vista but the OEMs pushed back hard to keep the low end systems as cheap as possible.

            TripleII
            TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
          • I know very well what

            Vista home lacks compared to home premium (or Ultimate), but you stated XP. Please make up your mind what your talking about.

            1 sticker would have caused as many problems. People would be screaming that MS was trying to rip them off by making them buy unnecessary hardware. 5 stickers would have been a problem as well.

            Either way, you'd be bashing MS for the choice, no matter what.

            I think they struck a reasonable balance. It is explained fairly well as it stands
            mdemuth
          • Hence the complete lack of confusion

            [B]I think they struck a reasonable balance. It is explained fairly well as it stands[/B]

            I guess you are right. Any confusion on the part of the consumer is imaginary.

            Another poster suggested a clear sticker program.

            Vista Home Basic Ready
            Vista Home Premium ready
            Vista Ultimate Ready

            You are right though, capable/ready, what's the difference, it's the consumer's fault.

            TripleII
            TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
          • Yikes, dangerous thing to say!

            [i]You are right though, capable/ready, what's the difference, it's the consumer's fault.[/i]

            The launch of a class action lawsuit is now the litmus test of whether consumers as a whole are being reasonable? Just because a class action lawsuit has been launched by 1 individual does not mean that the complaint is shared by consumers at large. There have been many crazy class action lawsuits so you are now going on record as saying every single one of them is reasonable and every one represented the feelings of a majority of consumers?
            NonZealot
          • Not what you originally said

            What you originally wrote:

            [i]I think that's where the the problem lies, they get a lot less functionality than XP.[/i]

            What you are writing now:

            [i]Some of the features it offers that Basic doesn't are Windows Aero (a new visual style and interface), Windows Media Center, Windows Movie Maker HD, Windows DVD Maker, Windows Meeting Space, and Windows SideShow.[/i]

            Which of those features were available in XP Home?


            [i]Home Basic is available for one reason only. Since all those $399 desktops and $499 notebooks must have a Windows version that can run, Home Basic is available.[/i]

            So MS is now evil for supporting budget hardware?

            [i]MS wants you to purchase Home Premium at a minimum[/i]

            So MS is now evil for wanting to make a profit? Tiered pricing systems weren't exactly invented by MS.

            If you want to compare pricing schemes of Windows to Linux, stop right now. They aren't comparable. Windows is a product that is meant to make a profit for Microsoft. That is the goal. If you are opposed to this idea, take it up with Adam Smith but let's not pretend this has anything to do with Vista's pricing system. While you are at it though, you will have to slam all CPU manufacturers who do the [b]exact[/b] same thing with CPUs (sell chips capable of higher speeds for lower prices just to squeeze every last drop of profit out of consumers who want budget computers and wouldn't buy the exact same chip at a higher price).
            NonZealot
    • I disagree

      All MS had to do was use the following labels:

      Vista Home Basic Ready
      Vista Premium Ready
      Vista Ultimate Ready

      Each label would have (or could have if implemented properly) accurately described the maximum version of Vista it could run with 100% of its features. You could certainly have Home Basic installed on a Vista Ultimate Ready machine, but you could not run (or at least not be [u]guaranteed[/u] to be able to run) Vista Ultimate on a Vista Premium Ready or Home Basic Ready machine.

      Also your last sentence does not imply a no-win situation. If Dell sold you a machine with a video card that passed MS's requirements and it did a bad job at running Aero, then that implies MS's minimum requirements were faulty. That's not an uncontrollable variable.

      So in short, the [u]idea[/u] of having different tiers of machine capability certifications is a good one, but MS's implementation of it was embarrassingly awful.
      Michael Kelly
      • re: I disagree

        If they did sensible stickers like you suggest, how could they prey on Joe Public's ignorance? It doesn't fit the business plan. SPIN (i.e. hide the negatives) is the only thing in marketing these days, what truth got to do with marketing in the modern world for companies of dubious ethics?
        deaf_e_kate
        • Well if they had a quality product

          they wouldn't need to prey on anybody. Vista was supposed to be a quality product.

          And yes my #1 gripe against MS (in fact, my only serious gripe) is that they do not produce quality products. At least in their software division, which is their bread and butter.

          Now personally having been spoiled with exposure to Beryl in the Unix world I can say that Aero thus far is about as underwhelming of a highly touted new feature from Redmond as I've seen. But other than that all I see are the normal growing pains that any new OS rewrite will encounter. Which is enough to keep any normal person away until it reaches a level of maturity, but that doesn't mean it can't evolve into a quality product. Actually I'm kind of impressed that Vista has held up as well as it has on security issues. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am impressed by the level of improvement. I'm starting to rant now so I'll end here.
          Michael Kelly
  • What a ludicrous complaint

    So if a computer can't utilize [b]every single feature[/b] of an OS, that computer should not be labeled as an <insert OS name> Capable computer? I could understand if you were missing out on something absolutely essential like, not having enough memory to boot the computer but I didn't realize that transparent window frames and "Flip 3D" were absolutely essential OS features. Using that logic in fact, only computers sold with the NVidia 8800 video card are "Vista Capable" since that is the only video card that is capable of supporting DirectX 10. I did notice that the lack of DirectX 10 support in my video card was making it [b]very[/b] difficult to browse the web in Vista.

    I think the people involved in this class action lawsuit would be better served buying a Mac since they obviously seem to have a great deal of difficulty with the concept of "choice".
    NonZealot
    • They aren't essential, but

      customers were expecting to have those features, and that may have entered into their decision of making the purchase.

      See my comment titled "I disagree" above. If the logo/label program had been more clear and precise (and it would not have been difficult to do) the customer would have been better informed of what they were purchasing and could have made a better decision, or at least lowered their expectations. A "Home Basic Ready" would have clearly implied it could not run Aero since Aero is not a part of Home Basic. A "Premium Ready" would have implied that it would not be guaranteed to run features exclusive to Ultimate (like tablet features). If you can't run 100% of Home Basic, then tough toodles, that machine doesn't qualify for any label. By creating a system in which a label lets you know the maximum version that can be run with 100% of its features you take out all doubt as to which features can be run and which can't.

      And if a customer wanted to take a Home Basic Ready computer and try to run Ultimate on it, then that's their risk to take. If they succeed then good on them, but if they failed then at least the label was clear enough to let them know they should have expected to have failed, so they have no good reason to complain.
      Michael Kelly
    • Problem is both MS and OEMs

      MS wanted to make the minimum requirements 1 gig but one OEM in particular (CNET suspects it was Dell) pushed back and force the 512M limit. There were a lot of "capable" machines sold as ready with 512M, and while capable of running Vista, it is not a pleasurable experience (without the bells and whistles, just the basics like speed and usability). MS should have stuck to it's guns, and said if you want Vista capable, you will see 1G ram with the machine.

      On the other hand, OEMs are stuck with many millions of machines with all banks filled with low spec ram totalling 512M, too much to throw it away.

      Us techies aside, if I go into a bike shop and they sell me a highway capable scooter, but the actual HP is unkown, it will be spec'ed later, and I find out it can 56 mph max without a headwind, they told the truth, but some would call that misleading.

      Not being able to run all the bells and whistles, you are right, complete non starter. I can and does run Vista basic (however slowly/badly). The case could go somewhere if it comes out that both the OEMs and MS knowingly lowballed the ram and CPU specs knowingly.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • There are cases where

        MS has been accused of strongarming OEMs, and many times rightly so. However if Dell (or anyone else) did come to MS and tell them to lower the recommended requirements for Vista for their own personal objectives then this is a case where MS SHOULD have used their clout to stand firm. This is Microsoft's flagship product, and they have a right and a duty to accurately inform their customers what its requirements are to run smoothly. MS's right to not damage to their future (and quite legitimate) earnings and reputation supersedes Dell's desire to sell cheap and underpowered machines.
        Michael Kelly