A group within Microsoft recommended in 2005 that the lowest-priced version of Windows Vista be released without the "Vista" name because of concerns over "user product expectations," according to documents unsealed by a federal court Wednesday.
The disclosure was made in a filing by the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that claims Microsoft misled consumers with its "Vista Capable" marketing program in the months leading up to the January 2007 release of the operating system.
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"Microsoft studied the precise question of whether Home Basic should be called 'Vista,'" said the plaintiffs in papers filed Dec. 8, 2008, but released to the public only today by U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman. "The recommendation of the Windows Product Management Group was that Home Basic should 'carry the Windows brand alone without the Vista generation name,'" the plaintiffs said, citing an August 2005 internal Microsoft e-mail it obtained as part of the legal discovery process.
The group, which presented its recommendation in what the plaintiffs' lawyers have dubbed the "White Paper," said ditching "Vista" from the Home Basic edition would "better align user product expectations to the high visibility innovations uniquely present in the Windows Vista premium versions."
The plaintiffs also said the decision to drop Vista from the Home Basic nameplate was "affirmed by a strong endorsement from top OEM partners," and specifically mentioned that Dell, the world's No. 2 seller of PCs, agreed with the idea.
Vista Home Basic is a key to the lawsuit, which alleges that Microsoft's Vista Capable program inflated the prices of PCs that could only run the lowest-end edition. Home Basic, the plaintiffs have contended, is not the "real" Vista, in large part because it lacks the Aero user interface.
In fact, Microsoft relaxed the hardware rules for Vista Capable in early 2006 so that PCs using older graphics chip sets made by Intel would qualify for the program. Those chip sets were not able to run the Aero interface.
Microsoft has denied that it duped consumers and has countered that Home Basic is a legitimate version of Vista. In a reply filed Wednesday, Microsoft reiterated those claims. "From the perspective of computer code and development, a jury could only conclude that Windows Vista Home Basic fairly belongs within the Windows Vista family," Microsoft said in the reply.