All it took was one flimsy product designation, and now Microsoft [MSFT] has a class-action lawsuit on its hands. The suit charges that Microsoft certified certain budget computer models as “Vista Capable” when, in fact, they were only barely so. The machines, which were low-performing CPUs with mediocre hardware, could only run Vista in theory; in practice, they were too slow to be practically usable.
The lawsuit had deposed CEO Steve Ballmer, who failed to apear in court,and issued a statement exonerating himself of any blame for the performance problems. He claimed no knowledge of the certification process, saying:
“I was not involved in establishing the requirements computers must satisfy to qualify for the Windows Vista Capable program.”
Of two under-executives that Ballmer says deserve blame, the CEO said:
“I did not direct Mr. Allchin or Mr. Poole to reach any particular business decision. Mr. Allchin and Mr. Poole remained responsible for maintaining and excecuting those decisions.”
By putting the blame squarely on his underlings, it’s doubtful that Ballmer will acquit himself. What is virtually certain, however, is that this episode will further sour relations between Microsoft and the potential Vista buyers they’re so forcefully wooing at present.