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HP enraged by 'Vista Capable' changes

HP and Microsoft emails disclosed in court case

Emails that show HP was enraged by Microsoft's decision to loosen the requirements for its 'Vista Capable' marketing campaign have been made public.

"I hope this incident isn't a foretaste of the relationship I will have with Microsoft going forward, but I can tell you that it's left a very bad taste with me and my team," Richard Walker, HP's senior vice president for its consumer PC unit, said in an email to senior Microsoft executives dated February 1, 2006.

One of those executives, Jim Allchin, who was in overall charge of Vista's development and delivery, was almost as outraged, and told his boss, CEO Steve Ballmer , that he was "beyond being upset" by the move. Ballmer denied being party to the decision.

The emails were unveiled by US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman in the class-action lawsuit that accuses Microsoft of deceiving customers in 2006 by certifying PCs as able to run Vista when it allegedly knew the machines were able only to handle the stripped-down Vista Basic, a version that lacked the new, heavily-promoted Aero interface, and other touted features. Vista was released early in 2007.

In early 2006, Microsoft relaxed the Vista Capable rules by allowing computers equipped with Intel's older 915 graphics chipset to qualify for the programme. Will Poole, then responsible for the client version of Windows, tossed out the requirement that a PC's graphics use the Windows Device Driver Model (WDDM), Vista's revamped driver architecture that debuted in Vista.

The decision pleased Intel, which had complained that it didn't have a sufficient supply of the more advanced graphics chipsets that would have met the original requirements. In fact, Intel's CEO Paul Otellini thanked Microsoft's Ballmer for the change.

HP, however, was anything but happy.

"The decision you have made has taken away an investment we made consciously for competitive advantage knowing that some players would choose not to make the same level of investment as we did in supporting your programme requirements," said Walker's email.

HP, unlike other computer makers preparing for Vista, had decided to ditch the low-end Intel 915 and 910 graphics chipsets to make sure that its low-priced PCs would be able to run Vista. In another email cited in the same group of messages, Walked said HP had designed and built two new motherboards for its upcoming Vista Capable lines. It was thought HP spent nearly $7m (£4.7m) on the technology to make its machines meet the original Vista Capable requirements.

NEXT PAGE: Ballmer denies involvement



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