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Mailbag: Microsoft and the Economy, Vista Capable Thoughts, More

Readers give their predictions for how Microsoft will fare in this economic climate...and what the company can do to actually change things for the better:

Of course, Microsoft will be fine. Most of Microsoft's customers have enterprise license agreements so the income stream, though smaller, will remain intact. Being a software company, Microsoft won't be saddled with unused production capacity or unneeded staff or office space.

MS OEMs will be the ones to suffer and the smaller ones are likely to go belly-up.

Given Microsoft's cash and the simple inertia of its customer base, Microsoft will make it through this downturn. And expectations for it will be lower because of the economy. The real question is after. Microsoft has strong and potentially strong products, but the key revolves around whether Ballmer can lead with vision as Gates did. And after the recession, expectations for things like Azure will be much higher.

Personally, I don't believe Ballmer is the right leader and MS will have to find a real Gates successor. Otherwise, while MS will retain large market share, it won't be as dominant as it is today (which might not be a bad thing). In essence, Microsoft will make it through, but it will shrink.

Let's face it. No one is better than Microsoft at creating demand before there is any supply! If Microsoft was truly worried about the economic future of this great country, it would invest some of its huge cash reserves back into the creative workers that are actually U.S. citizens. Maybe Microsoft could create a new division of programers that do nothing but reduce the amount of code to help software run more efficiently. Or how about a group dedicated to searching for and filling the security gaps that seem to be everywhere in Microsoft products?

Of all the companies in the U.S., Microsoft would be able to have a positive effect on the economy. And if it expanded, other companies would surely follow. Just like they always do!

The ghost of the "Vista Capable" sticker reared its head again this week, as a judge ruled against giving class-action status to those filing suit against Microsoft. Doug disagreed with the ruling. Here's what you think:

I agree with you on some points you make. However, even the slightest research by any consumer would have indicated that you should work with the "recommendations," not "minimum requirements" for Vista (or any other software, for that matter). I do feel Microsoft oversold Vista's ability to work with older hardware, but I have to say the primary onus should be on consumers to do their due diligence to figure things out before making significant purchases. If everyone believed what vendors of any industry said without skepticism, just think where we'd all be. Can you break athletic records because Nike says you can "just do it"? There needs to be some responsibility on the consumer, not just Microsoft.

The "capable" statements were technically accurate; the minimum requirements could install and run the software. Using words like "capable" should clearly be understood by the consumer that, yeah, it can run it on that old stuff, but you should really look to newer stuff to get the best experience. And that is the case. I don't think the judge was mistaken. It was a (I hope) fairly limited number of consumers who were affected and who should have thought a little more about their purchase.

You noted, "The PCs in question had the 'Capable' logo, but barely supported the OS and only ran the lowest-end versions." Think back to all the Mailbag letters protesting the recent announcement of Windows 7 versions. There are simply too many versions of Vista. A generic sticker stating a machine is capable doesn't give enough information. Then you need to get into compatibility charts. With a reasonable number of versions (no more than two), issues such as this would be less prevalent.

I agree that Vista Capable is horrendous, as is paying extra to downgrade. But a class-action suit would only hurt Microsoft to the benefit of the class-action lawyers. The people who are actually harmed only recover pennies, possibly dollars, in class-action suits. The lawyers make millions on these cases and they tie up the courts for years.

A better solution would be to boycott companies that sold Vista Capable computers. After all, they were the ones who assembled these horrible machines.

Meanwhile, Steve gives his take on the other Vista-related suit against Microsoft, this one over XP downgrade fees:

Are you supporting Alvarado's case against Microsoft? Shouldn't it be Lenovo versus Microsoft? Per the Register article you reference, a Microsoft representative said, "Microsoft does not charge or receive any additional royalty if a customer exercises those rights. Some customers may choose or need to obtain media or installation services from third parties to install the downgrade version."

Personally, my experience with HP Business PCs through its B2B channel is that it provides both Vista and XP media; usually x86 and x64 are included for both OSes. And it ships with XP installed. So whether Dell, Lenovo or whoever wants to charge a premium and toss it back on Microsoft's shoulders as Microsoft's fault or include a few extra disks that will cost the OEM very little to produce -- it sounds like it is a case that should be targeted toward the OEM, not Microsoft.

Ever wonder why the European Union hasn't given Apple the same treatment as it's been giving Microsoft? You're not alone:

And why is it that the EU doesn't do anything about Apple bundling Safari with the OS X operating systems? Double standard?

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on February 27, 2009


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