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Microsoft dropped Vista hardware spec to raise Intel profits

'Gotta sell those chipsets'

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You know this stuff goes on. But you're still gobsmacked when the proof turns up.

According to an email sent last February by Microsoft general manager John Kalkman, the software giant lowered Windows Vista's minimum hardware requirements to ridiculous levels only because Intel needed to sell more graphics chipsets.

The email was just one of many released in response to a federal class action suit that accuses Microsoft of misleading the world with those "Windows Vista Capable" logos it slapped on new PCs in the run-up to the operating system's debut. The logos appeared on system more than nine month before the OS was unveiled.

Judging from these emails - unsealed by the court this week and spewed to the digerati by Todd Bishop of Seattle Post-Intelligencer - the case has a pretty good chance.

"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," John Kalkman wrote to Scott Di Valerio, who oversaw Microsoft's dealings with PC partners.

Intel told The Wall Street Journal that the bit about its earning was not true, arguing that Kalkman "is not qualified in any shape or form to have knowledge about Intel's internal financial forecasts related to chipsets, motherboards or any other product".

Meanwhile, Microsoft informed the paper that it included the Intel 915 chipset in the Windows Vista Capable program "based on successful testing of beta versions of Windows Vista on the chip set and the broad availability of the chip set in the market." And it said the unsealed emails showed how its execs "were trying to make the marketing program better for Microsoft partners and consumers".

You could argue, however, that Kalkman's email is far from the best of the lot. In another message, a Microsoft board member tells Steve Ballmer he's decided against "upgrading" one of his machines to Vista. "I cannot understand with a product this long in creation why there is such a shortage of drivers," he says. ®

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