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Microsoft sued over Vista-to-XP downgrade policy

Microsoft is under legal siege again over Vista. This time, a consumer is suing the company for using its monopoly power to force her to pay to downgrade from Vista to XP on a new laptop.

Microsoft is under legal siege again over Vista. This time, a consumer is suing the company for using its monopoly power to force her to pay to downgrade from Vista to XP on a new laptop.

The Seattle Times provides a synopsis of the suit:

"Emma Alvarado bought a laptop from Lenovo on June 20, 2008, with Windows Vista Business preinstalled. She paid Lenovo 'an additional $59.25 in order to 'downgrade' her operating system to Windows XP Professional.' Alvarado is seeking class-action status."

I'm curious who set the price point for the downgrade. And if it was Lenovo, why isn't Alvarado suing Lenovo instead of Microsoft? Here's how the complaint lays out the reasoning:

"Consumers have encountered numerous problems using the Vista operating system, and these problems have been widely publicized in various media outlets. As a result, many consumers would prefer to purchase a new computer pre-installed with the Windows XP operating system or at least not pre-installed with the Vista operating system. However, Microsoft has used its market power to take advantage of consumer demand for the Windows XP operating system by requiring consumers to purchase computers pre-installed with the Vista operating system and to pay additional sums to 'downgrade' to the Windows XP operating system."

The complaint says Microsoft initially made the "downgrade" option available to users for $104 for a limited period of time - until June 30, 2008 -- but then extended the time period until January 31, 2009 and then July 31, 2009.  Yes, Microsoft's constantly shifting XP-downgrade cutoff dates have been a source of endless confusion and mixed messages about Vista's readiness. But, again, was it Microsoft making the downgrade option available for $104 or Lenovo? (And if it was Lenovo passing on Microsoft's charge to PC makers, that distinction is worth noting.)

Microsoft officials have said before that it is up to PC makers as to how and whether they offered XP downgrades to end users.

I've asked Microsoft if it has any additional points to make regarding its Vista-to-XP downgrade policies. No word back yet.

Update (late on February 13): Microsoft officials said they still had yet to be served with the Alvarado lawsuit. But regarding the company's downgrade policy, a spokesperson sent the following comment:

“Microsoft does not have a downgrade program.  It does offer downgrade rights as part of some Windows Vista licenses, including Windows Vista Business purchased through the OEM channel.  Microsoft does not charge or receive any additional royalty if a customer exercises those rights.  Some customers may choose or need to obtain media or installation services from third parties to install the downgrade version."

I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but this latest legal complaint sure seems wobbly, to me. But hey -- I initially thought the Vista Capable suit (which became a class action) was wacky and misguided. It turns out that lawsuit has yielded a lot of interesting documentation and evidence that Microsoft knew its marketing actions could potentially confuse and anger consumers.

What's your take on this new Vista suit? Do you think it has legs -- legs enough to become another thorn in Microsoft's side?