Microsoft fights Ballmer testimony in 'Vista Capable' suit

Microsoft calls request to depose Steve Ballmer about the Windows Vista Capable marketing program a media stunt.

The only thing CEO Steve Ballmer knew about Microsoft's Windows Vista Capable marketing campaign was what he was told by subordinates, and he should not have to testify in the class-action lawsuit that accuses the firm of deceiving customers, the company said Friday.

In a motion filed Friday, Microsoft asked US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman to block the move by plaintiffs' attorneys to depose Ballmer later this month. Lawyers for the plaintiffs want Ballmer on record in the case, which charges Microsoft duped consumers when it touted then-current PCs as "Vista Capable" in the months leading up to the late-2006 launch of the new operating system.

A Microsoft spokesman said the opposing lawyers were grandstanding. "This unnecessary request to depose Steve Ballmer is part of an effort by class action lawyers to generate media interest in topics that fall outside the narrow theory the court allowed them to pursue in this lawsuit in February," said company spokesman David Bowermaster.

In a declaration submitted to Pechman, Stephen Rummage, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, which is representing Microsoft in the case, said that he told plaintiffs' attorneys that Ballmer would not be available for a deposition before the Nov. 14 cut-off. "After briefly describing our understanding of the law, I told [plaintiffs' attorneys] that Mr. Ballmer had no unique or superior personal knowledge of any disputed facts, asked them to explain why they thought Mr. Ballmer's testimony was necessary, and requested that Plaintiffs rethink their request to depose Mr. Ballmer," Rummage told the judge.

Ballmer echoed that in his own declaration, also filed Friday. "I was not involved in any of the operational decisions about the Windows Vista Capable program," he said. "I was not involved in establishing the requirements computers must satisfy to qualify for the Windows Vista Capable program. I was not involved in formulating any marketing strategy or any public messaging surrounding the Windows Vista Capable program.

"To the best of my recollection, I do not have any unique knowledge of nor did I have any unique involvement in any decisions regarding the Windows Vista Capable program," Ballmer added.

All he knew about Vista Capable was what subordinates, particularly Jim Allchin, the Windows development chief who took Vista to market before retiring in early 2007, and Will Poole, the former senior vice president responsible for the client version of Windows, told him. Ballmer admitted having had only "brief discussions about technical requirements and timing" for the marketing effort with high-level executives at partners such as Intel.

Microsoft's Bowermaster declined to comment late Friday when asked why Ballmer was not more involved in the Vista Capable marketing campaign. At the time of Vista's debut in November 2006, Microsoft touted the unveiling as its "biggest ever in the history of Microsoft product launches."

The plaintiffs' attorneys also asked for testimony from other current and former Microsoft executives , including Allchin, Poole and Rajesh Srinivasan, a product manager in the Windows group at the time of Vista's launch. Lawyers will take their depositions starting Monday.

The lawsuit, which began in 2007 and was granted class-action status in February 2008, claims that Microsoft ran a "bait and switch" by touting slower, less-expensive PCs as able to run Vista when they would handle only Vista Home Basic, the least expensive version of the OS. The suit argues that Home Basic is not representative of the Vista that was heavily marketed to consumers.

The case is perhaps best known for the hundreds of internal Microsoft e-mails made public earlier this year, but it resurfaced Friday after lawyers for the plaintiffs asked Pechman to force Microsoft to use Windows Update to notify users that they may qualify for inclusion in the case.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags steve ballmervista

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?