The only thing CEO Steve Ballmer knew about Microsoft's Windows Vista Capable marketing campaign was what he was told by subordinates, and he should not have to testify in the class-action lawsuit that accuses the firm of deceiving customers, the company said Friday.
In a motion filed Friday, Microsoft asked U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman to block the move by plaintiffs' attorneys to depose Ballmer later this month. Lawyers for the plaintiffs want Ballmer on record in the case, which charges Microsoft duped consumers when it touted then-current PCs as "Vista Capable" in the months leading up to the late-2006 launch of the new operating system.
A Microsoft spokesman said the opposing lawyers were grandstanding. "This unnecessary request to depose Steve Ballmer is part of an effort by class action lawyers to generate media interest in topics that fall outside the narrow theory the court allowed them to pursue in this lawsuit in February," said company spokesman David Bowermaster.
In a declaration submitted to Pechman, Stephen Rummage, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, which is representing Microsoft in the case, said that he told plaintiffs' attorneys that Ballmer would not be available for a deposition before the Nov. 14 cut-off. "After briefly describing our understanding of the law, I told [plaintiffs' attorneys] that Mr. Ballmer had no unique or superior personal knowledge of any disputed facts, asked them to explain why they thought Mr. Ballmer's testimony was necessary, and requested that Plaintiffs rethink their request to depose Mr. Ballmer," Rummage told the judge.
Ballmer echoed that in his own declaration, also filed Friday. "I was not involved in any of the operational decisions about the Windows Vista Capable program," he said. "I was not involved in establishing the requirements computers must satisfy to qualify for the Windows Vista Capable program. I was not involved in formulating any marketing strategy or any public messaging surrounding the Windows Vista Capable program.
"To the best of my recollection, I do not have any unique knowledge of nor did I have any unique involvement in any decisions regarding the Windows Vista Capable program," Ballmer added.
All he knew about Vista Capable was what subordinates, particularly Jim Allchin, the Windows development chief who took Vista to market before retiring in early 2007, and Will Poole, the former senior vice president responsible for the client version of Windows, told him. Ballmer admitted having had only "brief discussions about technical requirements and timing" for the marketing effort with high-level executives at partners such as Intel.