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Big cheeses rolled into Vista-Incapable lawsuit

Intel, Dell, IBM, HP, Wal-Mart etcetera etcetera

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You can leave the job, but willl the job leave you? Jim Allchin, Microsoft's Windows mastermind emeritus, is the sole human being to be subpoenaed by plaintiffs in the Microsoft Vista Capable Marketing program class action.

Microsoft PC partners, such as Dell, HP and IBM, big resellers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, Costco and Fry's Electronics and an analyst firm or three, are also snared in the fishing expedition. And let's not forget Intel.

For the name-trawling we must thank Seattle PI reporter Todd Bishop, who lists 29 targets and links to plaintiff filings here.

The class actioneers allege that Microsoft artificially inflated demand in the run up to Christmas 2006, by falsely advertising that PCs were capable of running the Vista operating system.

The suit, filed last month, alleges that buyers were deceived because most purported Vista Capable PCs bought before the official retail launch in January 2007 could run the stripped-down Basic version of Vista, only. This lacks the media centre, and Aero interface with flip 3D and thumbnails, which some might consider a blessing.

But not our class actioneers, who want to smoke out discussions on PC pricing and Vista marketing programs.

Microsoft is fighting through the appeals court to have class action status removed from the suit. Also, several companies have filed objections to their subpoenas. Bishop reports. So it is possible that Allchin, who retired from Microsoft soon after Vista's release, may escape a recall to battle for his former employer. But undoubtedly the plaintiffs have made all the early running.

Microsoft emails released by the court last month, seem to indicate the company dropped Vista's minimum hardware specs to help out an old friend. "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," wrote Microsoft general manager John Kalkman in a mail to a colleague sent in February 2007. That claim made Intel very cross, as you can see in our story here.

Microsoft's spin on the unsealed emails? They show the company "trying to make the [Vista] marketing program better for Microsoft partners and consumers". ®

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