Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer was not able to avoid testifying in the “Vista Capable” class-action lawsuit. He was ordered by the federal judge in Seattle to testify in the lawsuit.
Ballmer is going to be called in for questioning about his role in a controversial Vista marketing campaign that prompted a consumer lawsuit. Computers were sold with an older Microsoft OS. They were labeled 'Vista Capable' when they could actually only run a basic version of Vista. The case was brought against Microsoft by two consumers in a Washington state court earlier this year.
Ballmer released a statement in which he said that he was not involved in the campaign. He mentioned two other Microsoft managers as the prime movers, then co-president Jim Allchin and then-senior vice president Will Poole. Both of them have since left Microsoft.
Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle said that Mr. Ballmer could have relevant, unique and personal knowledge of relevant facts that surround the case. According to court documents released late Friday, Judge Pechman ruled that he must face questioning.
The document reported that the plaintiffs lawyers are going to have approximately three hours, not more, in order to take a deposition from Ballmer at the time and place of his convenience. Ballmer must submit to a deposition within the next 30 days of the order.
The case against Microsoft was launched early last year. The plaintiffs allege that most computers labeled 'Vista Capable' in the marketing campaign, which began in early 2006, cannot run Vista Premium or just run Vista Premium poorly, this version of Vista having the most popular features.
The plaintiffs point out a phone conversation between Ballmer and Intel chief executive Paul Otellini. During the conversation the two men discussed the possible technical requirements of Vista Capable.
If the court finds Microsoft guilty the financial hit to the company could be huge. Businesses and persons who bought 'Vista Capable' hardware could be eligible for damages up to the cost of the equipment. Microsoft would also face a possible fine.
The court was not convinced. Pechman wrote in a Friday ruling that Mr. Ballmer himself looked dubious about Mr. Poole's claim that he resolved the issue. She added that the fact is important because it reveals Mr. Ballmer might have been evaluating Microsoft's response to Intel's concerns as regards the Vista Capable changes.
According to the court, that alone is sufficient enough to justify a deposition.
Judges of "Vista Capable" order Ballmer to testify in the lawsuit
Ballmer is asked by judges to testify in "Vista Capable"
Microsoft's Ballmer is called in for questioning about his role in "Vista Capable"