Intel officials may have been pleased that Microsoft lowered standards for obtaining the company’s Windows Vista Capable logo program sticker, but the same can’t be said about HP’s execs.
According to previously unseen e-mails unsealed late Friday by the judge in the ongoing class action lawsuit against Microsoft, HP (NYSE: HPQ) executives were hopping mad about Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) decision to certify computers running Intel’s 915 graphics chipset as capable of running Vista. The chipset was not capable of supporting Windows Vista’s new device driver model.
“I can’t be more clear than to say you not only let us down by reneging on your commitment to stand behind the [device driver model] 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,” said one e-mail from Richard Walker, the senior vice president of HP’s consumer business unit, to Jim Allchin and Kevin Johnson. At the time, the two were co-presidents of Microsoft’s platforms and services unit, which oversaw Vista.
The disclosures were just the latest in the case. On Thursday, federal judge Marsha Pechman, unsealed more than 30 pages of other previously sealed filings and e-mails that, the plaintiffs state, show that Microsoft relaxed the technical standards in order to help out Intel and some PC makers who were using the less capable chipset.
The lowering of certification requirements meant that PC makers could sell PCs that could not run Vista’s new user interface, known as Aero Glass, not even if they were later upgraded. That constituted a deliberate attempt by Microsoft to fool consumers into buying PCs that could not run the “full” version of Vista, according to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
What that did, according to e-mails from Walker to senior Microsoft executives, was undercut more than a year of development that HP’s developers had slogged through in order to support Vista on higher-end PCs that did properly support the driver model. Buckling to Intel’s requests undercut HP’s work to gain a strategic advantage against other PC makers who had not made that same investment.
In short, consumers confronted with the choice of buying a more expensive HP that had the Vista Capable sticker or a less expensive PC from a competitor with the same sticker would be mislead into thinking the two systems were equivalent – graphically speaking. That, the plaintiff’s say, was far from the truth.
HP’s Walker was livid, as is clear from the tone of his e-mails.
“Your credibility is severely damaged in my organization, I have engineers who’ve worked their tails off to qualify new platforms to support [Vista’s device driver model] who are wondering why they put so much effort in when Microsoft changed the rules at the last minute and didn’t even consult us before making the announcement,” Walker said, adding that HP is Microsoft’s largest PC manufacturing partner.