Private emails revealed in a U.S. court show Microsoft knew as far back as 2005 that hardware requirements for its Vista OS were confusing. One Microsoft exec was so frustrated with hardware requirements for Vista he called his PC "a $2,100 email machine."
Digital Journal -- Any smart business executive knows you have to be careful what you write. Be it on paper or sent through email, private details of business dealings can go public any time there is a paper trail.
Someone should have told that to Microsoft; currently in court, the company had to turn over a pile of emails that could put it in hot water.
The emails show the company's own execs were frustrated by hardware requirements for Vista. The emails also suggest Intel was worried about keeping up with demand, so it put pressure on Microsoft to lower its standards for the "Vista Ready" marketing program and accept an older chip that couldn't run Vista's Aero interface.
Aero is one of the most marketed features in Vista; it's the cool-looking graphical interface that critics say resembles a Mac. However, Aero only works with PCs running newer graphics hardware.
Early adopters to Vista have lashed out at Microsoft for problems with hardware and software compatibility, and many customers say PCs sold as being "Vista Capable" were nothing like it. A judge recently approved class-action status for a lawsuit against Microsoft for this reason.
Now Microsoft will have to deal with repercussions of private emails being released to the public. They show the company's top executives knew about many problems with Vista but launched the operating system anyway. Even more scathing for the company: It might have lowered its standards and compromised what Vista-capable meant in order to help Intel meet its financial targets. The emails bring up serious questions about Microsoft's behind-the-scenes dealings with Intel.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Todd Bishop highlighted a number of important emails and quoted them verbatim (typos and all).
One point of controversy is that Microsoft allowed an Intel chipset to be included in the Vista "capable" banner "to help Intel make their quarterly earnings," according to the email exchange.
In one email, Microsoft's John Kalkman wrote: "In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded,” (an Intel product). "It was a mistake on our part to change the original graphics requirements."
Microsoft's Jim Allchin wrote: "We might be able to thread the needle here if we make 'capable' just related to 'old' type hardware."
Manager Mike Ybarra responded with: “We are caving to Intel...We are allowing Intel to drive our consumer experience. I don't understand why we would cave on this when the potential to drive the full [user interface] experience is right in front of us."
Allchin responded with: "We really botched this.”
In a statement to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Intel spokesperson Chuck Mulloy claims, "We don't know who John Kalkman is. We do know he's not qualified to know anything about internal Intel financials or forecasts related to chipsets, motherboards or any other products." Mulloy said Kalkman "would have no visibility into our financial needs in any given quarter."
The Post-Intelligencer's Bishop notes how serious this would be if Microsoft did indeed lower its standards for Intel, writing:Such an arrangement between Microsoft and Intel would be "questionable, at best," said PC industry analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "A company typically isn't supposed to make as an objective that it helps another company with its earnings unless there's an ownership relationship there. ... If helping Intel helps Microsoft then it could be justified but on the face of it, it sounds a little funny. Why would they be helping Intel unless there's some other quid pro quo that's not in the e-mail?"
The other emails in the exchange show Microsoft's own executives had troubles installing and using Vista.
In one email, Microsoft exec Mike Nash shows his sheer frustration for the hardware requirements needed to install Vista, writing he got "burned" because he purchased a laptop that couldn't run a few programs. Frustrated, Nash wrote: "I now have a $2100 email machine."
In another email, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky wrote about troubles getting his home printer working with Vista. Sinofsky emailed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Feb. 2007 and outlined why Vista was having trouble at launch time, writing: "No one really believed we would ever ship [Vista] so they didn't start the work [on new drivers] until very late in 2006. This led to the lack of availability."
Sinofsky directly addressed the Intel chipset problem, writing: "[Intel's] '945' chipset which is the baseline Vista set 'barely' works right now and is very broadly used. The '915' chipset which is not Aero capable is in a huge number of laptops and was tagged 'Vista Capable'."
Microsoft's Jon Shirley also had problems with his Epson printer and scanner, as well as a Nikon film scanner. Furthermore, he had problems running Microsoft's own products, writing: "The most persistent and so far hardest to fix issues are both with MSN products, Porftolio in MSN Money and Music (downloads that I had bought in the past)."
Other emails show Microsoft's struggle to define "Vista Capable" and "Vista Ready" for new PCs. Microsoft issued a statement regarding these emails saying employees were raising concerns about Vista in an effort to make the OS better for customers.
Here are the Microsoft emails for your perusal.