The judge in the ongoing Vista Capable row has denied PC buyers a motion for partial summary judgment in a lawsuit against Microsoft, citing a lack of evidence to show the company had hoodwinked customers.
The issue will be decided in a forthcoming trial instead, ruled US District Judge Marsha Pechman late on Wednesday.
The decision to deny the motion sought by plaintiffs in the long-running dispute was made despite the fact that emails between MS wonks, released by the court in February last year, revealed doubts even among Redmond top brass.
In January 2006 the then-Windows chief Jim Allchin expressed his concerns in an email exchange with a colleague.
"I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program," he said at the time. "OEMs will say a machine is Capable and customers will believe that it will run all the core Vista features. The fact that Aero won't be there EVER for many of these machines is misleading to customers."
Allchin left Microsoft in January 2007 after 17 years with the company.
The email missives also revealed that MS had apparently lowered its Windows Device Driver Model (WDDM) requirements for Vista to help out its old friend Intel, which was "late with its integrated chipset", according to a message penned by Microsoft's Brad Goldberg to Steven Sinofsky in August 2006.
At the crux of the debate was the fact Intel's 915 chipset could not run the critical Longhorn Display Driver Model (LDDM), also known as the WDDM.
The emails "raise a serious question about whether customers were likely to be deceived by the WVC [Windows Vista Capable] campaign," repeated Pechman in her ruling dated 18 March 2009.
However, she added: "These communications do not establish that Microsoft's actions, as a matter of law, had a capacity to deceive a substantial portion of the public.
"A trier of fact must analyse both internal discussions and public disclosure to determine whether the Vista Capable campaign had a capacity to deceive."
Plaintiffs brought the case against Microsoft two years ago. They allege that the company artificially inflated demand for Vista in the run-up to Christmas 2006, by falsely advertising that PCs would be capable of running the full version of the firm’s operating system before it had even been launched into the consumer market.
Some customers felt they had been duped by the sticky labels slapped on Windows XP-based PCs that lacked the appropriate hardware to run Vista Premium's media centre, and the Aero interface.
Just last month Microsoft scored a major win in the case when Pechman ruled it no longer warranted class action status. ®