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Vista Capable case to get Class-action status again

Judge could re-instate motion by next week

Class-action status could be reinstated on Microsoft's 'Vista Capable' case as early as next week.

The Vista Capable case sees a number of Microsoft customers claiming the company defrauded them by promoting PCs and laptops as 'Vista Capable' when they could only run Windows Vista Home Basic.

The plaintiffs have contended that Vista Home Basic 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.

The class-action status of the lawsuit was removed in mid-February, because the plaintiffs had failed to prove Microsoft's 2006 marketing campaign drove up PC prices. This meant that the consumers had to sue Microsoft individually and not as a group, which is thought to have slashed the costs Microsoft would have had to pay out, through to be in the region of $8.5bn.

However, a week later, plaintiffs' lawyers asked US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman, who is handling the case, to grant class-action status to a smaller group than before: consumers who had purchased PCs during Microsoft's Express Upgrade program, and people who bought Vista Capable machines that wouldn't run the new operating system's Aero graphical user interface.

Before Pechman dumped the case's class-action aspect, the group had consisted of anyone who bought a PC labelled with the 'Vista Capable' sticker. But even if she rules against the plaintiffs' request to restore class-action status, it's unlikely the case will end.

"We anticipate further motion practice in the trial court, followed by - if unsuccessful - an appeal to the Ninth Circuit," Jeffrey Tilden, who is with law firm Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell, said at the time.

The lawsuit is best known as the source for hundreds of insider emails that have been made public by the court, including numerous messages that showed how Microsoft relaxed the requirements of Vista Capable to accommodate Intel, the difficulties even high-level company executives had running Vista after its January 2007 launch, and arguments over ditching 'Vista' from the name of the lowest-level edition, Home Basic, over worries that users would complain.

Although a trial is still set to begin April 13, it's not likely to start on time. If Pechman grants the plaintiffs' motion next week, the case will be delayed until attorneys can notify eligible consumers, while a rejection of the motion will, as Thomas pointed out, lead to an appeal.


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