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The Computer Buzz December 11th, 2008


Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact
ory
 

 

Do They Really Care About Us?

As organizations grow and mature there is a tendency for the people who run them to focus more on their own short-term objectives and less on their purpose and the people they serve. It's true of corporations, unions (public and private), professional associations, industry trade organizations, city, state and national governments and their associated bureaucracies and even non-profit NGOs (None Government Organizations) like Red Cross, United Way and the NAACP. Ethics, integrity and honesty can easily become non-players in their decision making process.

A current class action lawsuit against Microsoft illustrates this point. When the truth threatened the short-term profitability of corporate giants, Microsoft and Intel, they conspired to deceive their customers in order to protect revenues. Through 2005 and 2006 Microsoft kept delaying the release of the Vista operating system. PC sales typically slow down prior to the release of a new OS as users defer purchases in anticipation of the new release. Vista delays slowed sales for the entire PC industry including Microsoft and Intel, the industries software and hardware giants.

In 2006, to help stimulate sales of XP PCs prior to Vista's release, Microsoft developed a hardware specification that would permit PC sellers to tag their XP PCs as "Vista Ready." Users could buy a "Vista Ready" XP PC fully confident that it could be upgraded to Vista .

AMD, nVidea, ATI and other chipset makers developed motherboard chipsets that met the Microsoft's "Vista Ready" specification. Intel's mainline 915 motherboard chipset could not support Vista's new video scheme (AERO). Intel Pentium and Celeron PCs using Intel chipsets did not meet Microsoft's "Vista Ready" criteria.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini called Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to complain that well over 50% of PCs including everything made by Intel couldn't meet the "Vista Ready" specification. The impact was not lost on Ballmer. If Intel based PCs could not sell, Microsoft would lose the revenue from the XP operating systems that accompanied each PC. Microsoft reacted by designing a special XP label that read "Vista Capable" for the Intel based PCs. Microsoft general manager John Kalkman is on the record stating: "In the end, we lowered the [Vista graphics] requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded." The lawsuit alleges that the "Vista Capable" label created the impression that these PCs could actually run Vista video features and therefore used deception to create an inflated value. Some Microsoft executives were upset with the blatant deception. Jim Allchin, a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Microsoft with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates sent this E-Mail "I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program." Allchin resigned the day Vista was released.

By an ironic twist, Microsoft's deception did little real damage. Since Vista was recognized as problematic early on, few of the millions of potential "victims" were tempted to try a Vista "upgrade" on their deceptively labeled PCs.

No harm, no foul.

 

 

 

 

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