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Microsoft to pay £8.5bn in 'Vista Capable' case

Estimated cost to upgrade affected machines

Microsoft could end up shelling out $8.5bn (£6.1bn) to settle with all of the customers involved in the Vista Capable lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Microsoft defrauded customers by promoting PCs and laptops as 'Vista Capable' when they could only run Windows Vista Home Basic, which the plaintiffs have contended, is not the 'real' Vista, in large part because it lacks the Aero user interface. Microsoft has denied that it duped consumers, and has countered that Home Basic is a legitimate version of Vista.

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The estimated figure was contained in documents published by the US court, which is handling the lawsuit against the tech company. Microsoft dismissed the estimate in a filing of its own yesterday, saying it was "absurdly [valued]" and if damages were granted, added that it would be a "windfall to millions".

Keith Leffler, a University of Washington economist and expert witness for the plaintiffs, calculated that it would cost a minimum of $3.92bn (£2.86bn) and as much as $8.52bn (£6.1bn) to upgrade the 19.4 million PCs sold as Vista Capable to hardware able to run the premium versions of Windows Vista.

In a heavily-redacted report, Leffler said he had used data provided by Microsoft to arrive at the number of ‘Vista upgradeable' PCs sold in the US from April 2006, when the Vista Capable campaign started, to January 2007, when Vista hit retail shelves and the program ended.

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Of those PCs, 13.75 million laptops and 5.65 million desktop computers were classified as Vista Capable but not able to meet the more stringent requirements for the 'Premium Ready' label, Leffler estimated.

By the criteria set by Microsoft and passed to computer makers, Vista Capable meant that the machine was able to run at least Windows Vista Basic, the entry-level edition of the line. Such a system, however, might not be able to run a more powerful version, or if it could, might not be able to execute all its features. A Premium Ready logo, on the other hand, indicated that the PC was able to run higher-end versions, such as Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate.

Leffler arrived at his minimum and maximum upgrade costs by estimating how much it would cost to upgrade each Vista Capable machine to 1GB of memory and a graphic card capable of running Aero. It would cost a maximum of $155 (£113) to upgrade each desktop, and between $245 and $590 (£179 and £431) to upgrade each laptop.

NEXT PAGE: Upgrades would be a windfall for millions


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