The Seattle PI reports on some bad news for Microsoft:

In a blow to Microsoft Corp., a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit late Friday alleging that Microsoft unjustly enriched itself by promoting PCs as "Windows Vista Capable" even when they could only run a bare-bones version of the operating system, called "Vista Home Basic."

The slogan was emblazoned on PCs during the 2006 holiday shopping season as part of a campaign by Microsoft to maintain sales of Windows XP computers after the launch of Windows Vista was delayed.

In her ruling, Judge Marsha Pechman granted class-action status, stating that "common issues predominate."

"These common issues ... are whether Vista Home Basic, in truth, can fairly be called 'Vista' and whether Microsoft's 'Windows Vista Capable' marketing campaign inflated demand market-wide for 'Windows Vista Capable' PCs," she wrote.

At the same time, though, Pechman narrowed the basis on which plaintiffs could move forward with their claims.

For instance, she said that the plaintiffs could not pursue a class-action lawsuit on the basis that consumers had been deceived because "an individualized analysis is necessary to determine what role Microsoft's 'Windows Vista Capable' marketing program played in each class members' purchasing decision."

However, she said it was appropriate for plaintiffs to argue as a class that Microsoft had artificially inflated demand -- and prices -- for computers only capable of running Vista Home Basic by marketing them as "Windows Vista Capable."

Interesting. From as far back as the time I revealed Microsoft's strategy to bifurcate the market for Vista with far too many product editions, I've argued that this decision was a huge mistake. I still feel that way, though I question the frivolous nature of this lawsuit. It doesn't matter what happens here: We're stuck with multiple Vista versions regardless.