You may already be familiar with the "Vista Capable" lawsuit, in which two users claimed that the "Windows Vista Capable" stickers were misleading because they designated computers only able to handle Vista Home Basic—the version of Vista that lacks the Aero graphical interface and many other goodies. The lawsuit has since reached class-action status, and it has resulted in a batch of internal Microsoft e-mails being released to the public.
Some of these e-mails paint an interesting picture of the atmosphere at Microsoft during the weeks surrounding the Vista launch, and they shed some light into how Microsoft came to define "Windows Vista Capable" systems. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which quotes some of the e-mails and links the rest in a PDF file, the decision to label PCs without the graphics hardware necessary to run Aero as "Vista Capable" was prompted by pressure from Intel.
"In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded," says Microsoft executive John Kalkman in one of the e-mails dated February 17, 2007. Kalkman adds, "It was a mistake on our part to change the original graphics requirements. This created confusion in the industry on how important the aspect of visual computing would play as a feature set to new Windows Vista upgrades."
Another e-mail dated February 1, 2006 suggests Microsoft staffer Mike Ybarra protested the decision, saying, "Jim [Allchin], I am passionate about this and believe this decision is a mistake. We are caving to Intel. We worked hard the last 18 months to drive the UI experience and we are giving this up. The OEMs are behind us here, we have the support we need to drive this experience on today's hardware. . . . We are allowing Intel to drive our customer experience"
In the end, the confusion didn't just hurt Microsoft's customers. Microsoft Windows Product Management VP Mike Nash himself says in an e-mail dated February 25, 2007, "I personally got burned by the Intel 915 chipset issue on a laptop that I PERSONALLY (eg with my own $$$). Are we seeing this from a lot of customers? I know that I chose my laptop (a Sony TX770P) because it has the vista logo and was pretty disappointed that it not only wouldn't run Glass, but more importantly wouldn't run Movie Maker . . . I now have a $2100 email machine."