Lawyers want Windows Update used to push lawsuit notices

Attorneys argue that Windows Update would be a "low-cost" and "efficient" way to reach potential class members in 'Vista Capable' suit.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at security vendor nCircle Network Security, who has been critical of Microsoft in the past for using Windows Update to push non-security updates to users, isn't keen on the lawyers' idea. "Where do we draw the line for using Windows Update?" Storms asked. "I don't feel comfortable using Windows Update for this; it just doesn't seem like the right method for communication."

In any case, he argued, the tactic may backfire. "Windows Update's primary purpose is software updates, so this would probably be viewed as a spam message," he said. "And who is going to read it? Users click through legal notices all the time, so this may not even be worthwhile."

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on whether it believes using Windows Update for a legal notification is appropriate.

The Vista Capable lawsuit charges Microsoft with deceptive practices in letting PC makers slap a "Vista Capable" sticker on PCs when it allegedly knew that many of those systems could run only Vista Home Basic, the entry-level version. The suit, which began in 2007 and was granted class-action status in February 2008, claims that Home Basic is not representative of the Vista that Microsoft marketed to consumers.

The case is perhaps best known for the hundreds of internal Microsoft e-mails Pechman made public earlier this year. The messages detailed top Microsoft executives' problems with Vista shortly after it was released, and included comments from Steven Sinofsky, the head of Windows development, who complained about his printer. "My home multi-function printer did not have drivers until 2/2 and even then [they] pulled their 1/30 drivers and released them (Brother)," Sinofsky in an e-mail dated a month after Vista's retail release.

Normally, plaintiffs pay for any class member notification campaign, but the motion also asked Judge Pechman to reverse the charges, and make Microsoft pay if it loses a pending partial summary judgment motion.

According to the plaintiffs, the class member pool number about 15 million people, and the proposed notification campaign will cost just over US$187,000.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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