Dell pointed out Vista mistakes, internal docs show

Late changes, confusing marketing, doubting vendors contributed to Vista stumbles

Last-minute changes to Windows Vista broke drivers, forcing key hardware vendors to "limp out with issues" when the OS launched last year, according to a presentation by Dell that was made public last week.

"Late OS code changes broke drivers and applications, forcing key commodities to miss launch or limp out with issues," said one slide in a Dell presentation dated March 25, 2007, about two months after Vista's launch at retail and availability on new PCs.

The criticism was just one of many under the heading "What did not go well?" Others ranged from knocks against Vista's Windows Anytime Upgrade scheme, an in-place upgrade option, to several slams on "Windows Vista Capable," the marketing program that targeted PC buyers shopping for machines in the months leading up to Vista's debut.

Dell's postmortem, in fact, was one of several after-launch appraisals included in the 158 pages of e-mails and other documents unsealed last week in a class-action lawsuit over Vista Capable.

"Stronger messaging regarding hardware requirements (the bar was set too low when Aero was dropped as a requirement for Vista Capable)," Dell's presentation noted in another slide.

That response wouldn't have come as a surprise to Microsoft. Dell had voiced its dissatisfaction with Microsoft's marketing plans a year and a half earlier. In August 2005, Gretchen Miller, Dell's director of mobile marketing -- responsible for the Texas company's laptop marketing -- gave feedback to Microsoft on its Vista programs.

"[The dual logo] adds another level of complexity to an already complex story, which in turn will create confusion for our customers, both corporate and consumer," said Miller in an e-mail. Although Dell advised Microsoft to scale back the logos, the software developer eventually went ahead with its plans for two stickers, once that announced a PC was "Vista Capable," the other advertising that the system was "Vista Premium Ready."

Dell also used the March 2007 presentation to call out other things it thought Microsoft got wrong in the push for Vista. "Windows Automatic Update was not what was advertised and has lead to a number of poor customer experiences," Dell charged. "Upgrade program needs a complete overhaul."

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Gregg Keizer

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