Ballmer Should Tell the Truth

Steve Ballmer has been ordered to provide a deposition in the Vista "Junk PC" suit, and it's easy to guess what he'll say: "I had nothing to do with the marketing scheme." Here's what he should say instead.

Last week, a judge told Ballmer he had to provide testimony in the class-action lawsuit against Microsoft for a marketing scheme in which people claim that Microsoft misled consumers into buying "Windows Vista Capable" PCs, even though the PCs couldn't run the most important features of Vista.

Ballmer has long denied that he had a role in that marketing scheme, but recent documents show that he may have been more involved than he claimed. Documents show that Ballmer spoke with executives at both Intel and HP about the Microsoft "Vista Capable" scheme.

Of particular note is a discussion that Ballmer had with Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel. Documents show that in essence, Intel pressured Microsoft into putting "Vista Capable" stickers on PCs with 915 chipsets, even though PCs with those chipsets couldn't run Aero or other parts of Vista.

When he provides his depostion, Ballmer should do something novel when it comes to lawsuits: Tell the truth. He should admit that Microsoft bowed to Intel pressure and in response launched the marketing scheme -- and made a big mistake in doing so. He should add that Microsoft has learned from the mistake, and recognizes that marketing flim-flams can't cover up bad technology decisions. He should make a public promise that Microsoft won't repeat the same action.

Finally, he should offer to settle the suit right now, to put the entire issue behind Microsoft, and let the company focus on getting Windows 7 out the door.

Do I expect this to happen? Well, I haven't seen any pigs flying past my window lately. And I don't believe that the residents of Hades will be needing ice skates anytime soon.

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