Word Games . . .

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From the Seattle Times (emphases ours).

Microsoft announced a new program to label PCs “Windows Vista ready” if they can handle the new operating system going on sale in January. But the stickers don’t tell the whole story, because some of the labeled PCs may only be able to run a bare-bones version of Vista.

Vista will be available in six versions but the “Windows Vista Capable PC” stickers may appear on systems that can run only Windows Vista Home Basic, which doesn’t include the graphics system that’s a highlight of the new software. The stickers can be applied on systems with current-generation processors, at least 512 megabytes of memory and a DirectX 9-class graphics processor.

A Microsoft spokeswoman characterized the specifications as a “baseline,” saying that “customers buying PCs today that exceed the Windows Vista Capable PC baseline are more likely to be able to take advantage of the premium experiences in Windows Vista when they upgrade.”

She said Microsoft will provide minimum-hardware requirements for full versions of Vista “in the coming months.”

Can you picture the scenes in households all around the world when the people who bought the “Windows Vista Capable PC” try to install a premium version of Vista, only to find out that “capable” doesn’t mean the same thing as “able.” Most Joes are not going to know that this thing is going to come in multiple flavors until he gets an error message saying, “You do not meet the hardware requirements for Vista Premium. Do you wish to install Vista Basic?”

And when they go back to the Best Buy and CompUSA, can you imagine the reaction when these people get told that they’ll have to spend hundreds more to make their “Windows Vista Capable PC” capable of running a version of Vista they didn’t even know existed? Can you imagine the life expectancy of the computer salesperson who tells them that, especially if the person telling them that is the salesperson sold them the machine?

I mean, is there not a soul in Redmond capable of imagining that some might not have the most tender, loving thoughts for those who gave them that Vista experience? Is there no one at One Microsoft Way who might conceive that others could perceive this to be a synonym of “bait-and-switch?” Or, for the baser sort, “rip-off?”

When Vista starts to be sold, there will be “Vista Basic” and “Vista Premium” logos, which will at least give consumers a hint that there’s more than one version of Vista, and one needs heftier equipment than the other.

But from now until then, these stickers will give no indication that this is going to be the case.

This is low, Microsoft. Do this, then hide behind the resellers’ skirts (then again, maybe some of the hardware makers are hiding behind MS’s skirts, too.)

What did I do when I found out about this? I filed a complaint with the FTC to beat the rush. If this happens, this is going to be a disaster.

Do you know what is really aggravating about all this? If you tell your Sixpacks about this, some of them are going to buy these systems, then call you stupid and incapable of reading plain English, possibly ending the conversation with “Well, I asked the salesman, and he said you were wrong.”

Of course, you’ll end up with the last laugh, but you know it will be sour.

See how these companies play word games?


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