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Microsoft slams plan to 'hijack' Windows Update

WU could be used for Vista Capable notifications

Microsoft has slammed plans that will force the company to update those involved in the Vista Capable court case through the Windows Update service.

Microsoft called the idea, which was put forward two weeks ago by plaintiffs' lawyers, an "attempt to hijack Windows Update" that would bombard millions with a message that "amounts to spam".

The Vista Capable lawsuit accuses Microsoft of duping buyers in 2006 and 2007 by letting PC makers slap a 'Vista Capable' sticker on PCs when it allegedly knew that many of those systems could run only Vista Home Basic, the entry-level version. The case, which began in 2007 and was granted class-action status in February this year, claims that Home Basic is not representative of the Vista that Microsoft marketed to consumers.

Earlier this month, the plaintiffs in the Vista Capable case asked US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman to make Microsoft use the update service to send all Windows users a notice of the class-action lawsuit. The notice, which would pop-up on users' screens, would include a link to a site where consumers could obtain more information.

Windows Update is best known for delivering security patches on the second Tuesday of each month, although it has also been used by Microsoft to push non-security updates and to patch third-party products. It has not been used for legal messages such as the one proposed by the plaintiffs' lawyers, however.

"The Court should deny Plaintiffs' attempt to hijack Microsoft's Windows Update service to distribute class notice," Microsoft's objection said. "Microsoft has told consumers and businesses that it uses Windows Update for software updates to the Windows operating system, never for general informational messages. Plaintiffs' plan, however, would use Windows Update to foist irrelevant notice on persons owning over 120 million PCs that are not the subject of this case, who should not be forced to spend time reading a notice that, as to them, amounts to spam."

Microsoft also argued that users would revolt if Windows Update was used for something other than updates. "Distribution of notice via Windows Update would likely cause some users to be upset that Microsoft acted contrary to their expectations," Microsoft said, "and they may go so far as to turn off Windows Update and lose the important protections that it provides".

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