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Mailbag: What's In a Label?

On the heels of yesterday's deluge of letters about the "Vista Capable" labeling suit, here are more of your thoughts on whether Microsoft should win or lose:

M$ should lose. The (assumed) point of the Vista label was to provide a quick ID to the general public, implying that "you're all set" to enjoy all the features we advertise, without the need to investigate further.

Those with enough tech savvy to investigate further would find readily available info that there may be limitations with the labeled hardware, but this would only point out the label was "misleading." Hardly a defense.

I hope Microsoft pays through the nose. This was a fraud perpetrated on the average consumer and it needs to learn a lesson.

If it runs any version of Vista, then it meets the test. It's dirty marketing. MS may win this lawsuit but it will lose the trust of its customer base. If it's wise, MS will make a concession and allow free upgrades to licensed owners of Vista.

One might assume that anything labeled "Vista Capable" would be better off using Windows XP! But more on the point, if savvy tech people are misled by labeling practices, then Microsoft is playing word games and should be held accountable for misleading a public that is much less savvy about such things.

As a consumer, a "Vista Capable" machine should be able to run Vista out of the box, without any additional modification. In my case, I am running Vista Ultimate SP1 on an Inspiron E1505, 1GB memory. The machine is "Designed for Windows XP" and is labeled "Vista Capable." Since it runs Vista without problem, I take "Vista Capable" as being an accurate statement.

It depends on what you mean by "Vista Capable" machines. Does this label mean that the machine must be capable of running all the eye candy such as Aero Glass and other graphics-intensive, eye-catching features? Or does this label mean that the machine must be capable of running Vista? If the latter is the case, then most older Pentium 4 PCs with at least 2GB of RAM and all dual-core processors with at least 1GB of RAM are Vista Capable.

I installed Vista SP1 Enterprise Edition on an older Compaq Pentium 4, 1.8Ghz W4000, which I gave to my wife. After upgrading it from 1GB to 2GB RAM, it runs just as good or better than XP ran on it. I gave my daughter my old HP nc6120 laptop with 2GB RAM running XP. With the latest available Wi-Fi driver, it kept disconnecting continually from our home wireless access point (using WPA encryption). I did a fresh install to Vista SP1 Enterprise Edition, and it runs better now than when XP was installed, and has not disconnected from our home wireless network ever since. Now, if the machine must be able to run Vista as well as all its eye candy to have a "Vista Capable" sticker, that is a different story.

I'm really not one to complain, but if we are talking semantics, then M$ may lose this one. I'm thinking that if you have a product that can only be used in ONE fashion, then it should be clearly stated. There are multiple versions of Vista available and many beginners would not have the vaguest clue about which one they would want for their particular needs. Somebody should have taken a little extra time on product label design so this would not be a problem.

I think Microsoft should win. Here is my defense of that statement: To me, it is no different than a car manufacturer stating 33 MPG, and in the real world getting 25 MPG. By that I am saying, if you did drive as claimed by the letter of the test that claimed it got 33 MPG, then in fact you would be as close to achieving their claim as stated. This MPG claim has been going on for years.

I could go on with more examples, but this one clearly exposes the "devil in the details" as good as any example I can think of.


You know, like in car sales, there has to be an asterisk to show that the ad doesn't imply you get everything. Like air conditioning, cruise control, which size engine, etc.

This IS what Microsoft omitted doing and given the nature of marketing and legalities for other products, I'd say it's guilty of being outright misleading.

I think that Microsoft damaged the reputation of Vista so badly by allowing those stickers, it has already paid the price. By saying those low powered boxes could run Vista, many people had a horrible first experience with Vista, and those same people are still using XP to this day.

Also, many of them told people about it, and those people still "hate" Vista. Some of those people buy things in the corporate world, and they did not adopt Vista. Microsoft is already paying for this.

This is yet another Microsoft way of putting a spin on the Vista fiasco. Either a computer runs an OS or it doesn't. For the public to have to differentiate the multitude of Vista versions available and determine which ones a computer can run is borderline absurd. Set the bar high as to what is needed to run Vista. Then, any of the less robust versions of Vista will run better than expected. Hardware is so inexpensive these days that it is foolish to take the approach MS has taken.

Fortunately, when we purchased my daughter's new laptop, we listened to the sales associate and bought a higher-end machine. Vista is OK for her on this platform and does pretty much what she needs (but I still like Windows XP).

The bottom line is that I am sure there are a lot of folks out there who were misled. There is such a thing as truth in advertising. Microsoft should lose this one -- and it will either way, in terms of legal fees, should this go to court.

I for one think that the whole Vista Capable logo was a complete line of bull. I have not read all of the documents and e-mails that have been made public on this matter, so I do that not have the perspective on the case. But I have always thought that the logo program was to be used to show that a PC was capable of running the OS, be it slow at times. And now we have a new logo that was being introduced just so manufacturers could continue to ship lower-end computers that are already coming through the retail channels. This label was very deceiving because it clearly states that the computer is "Vista Capable." Why not say "Vista Basic Capable"? One simple reason: to try to deceive the consumer into buying hardware that is not really capable. But they may not notice since so many different people are buying computers now.

There is a very wide range of expertise and understanding in your typical PC consumer these days and this label was developed and used in hopes of continuing to sell a sub-standard experience and users would not understand.

Share your thoughts on this issue -- or on any of the other topics covered here -- by leaving a comment below, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on November 20, 2008