Microsoft may have quickly shifted its focus to Windows 7, but the problematic Windows Vista is still providing the occasional niggle.
An ongoing class-action lawsuit - in which customers have accused Microsoft of deception by labelling inadequate 2006 computer systems as "Vista Capable" - has now resulted in a series of internal documents being made available to a District Court in Seattle.
Among those very documents are a series of e-mails between Microsoft and HP that reveal how the software giant managed to leave "a very bad taste" in the mouth of one of its biggest partners.
It's a fittingly-bloated investigation, but the important details are as follows:
Long before the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft made its partners aware of the minimum system specifications required to apply a "Vista Capable" logo.
All seemed swell until a last minute change. Shortly before the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft took a u-turn and scrapped the requirement that insisted graphics in a Vista-Capable PC should use the Windows Device Driver Model (WDDM). By doing so, it allowed systems featuring Intel's ageing 910 and 915 graphics chipsets to be labelled as Vista Capable.
Intel, of course, was ecstatic and CEO Paul Otellini even sent a thank you message to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. Intel was happy, but Microsoft faced a slew of angered partners, including Hewlett Packard.
On February 1st 2006, senior vice president of HP's consumer PC business unit, Richard Walker, e-mailed Microsoft's Jim Allchin and said:
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 program requirements.
Now we have a situation where PC manufacturers (and processor/chip set suppliers) can claim Vista Capable in a 'good' mode just because it will run. What kind of consumer assurance is that? Hardly one that puts any credence behind your desire to create the 'best possible customer experience for the Windows Vista Upgrade.
I can't be more clear than to say you not only let us down by reneging on your commitment to stand behind the WDDM requirement, you have demonstrated a complete lack of commitment to HP as a strategic partner and cost us a lot of money in the process. Your credibility is severely damaged in my organization.
According to HP, it suffered a loss of around $7m as a result of Microsoft's last minute change. It had invested heavily in upgrading its hardware to support Windows Vista's launch, only to find the upgrades were ultimately no longer a requirement.
Microsoft's Allchin, however, appeared to be unaware of current events and promptly e-mailed Ballmer with the following:
I am beyond being upset here. This was totally mismanaged by Intel and Microsoft. What a mess.
Now we have an upset partner, Microsoft destroyed credibility, as well as my own credibility shot. I was away and I get back to see this mess.
I was told all this started with a call between you and Paul (Otellini, Intel CEO). I will have to get to the bottom of this and understand how we could be so insensitive in handing the situation.
Ballmer has since denied being involved in lowering Vista Capable requirements, but it evidently wasn't enough to appease Allchin - he retired the day Windows Vista launched.
HP's anger has come to the forefront, but there must have been a long list of upset partners prior to Windows Vista's 2007 debut. Microsoft will do well to eat large chunks of humble pie when dealing with partners for Windows 7.