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More 'Vista Capable' dirt could leak this week

Microsoft is meeting with hardware vendors this week, which might prove to be inconvenient timing given a federal judge's imminent ruling.

Microsoft's "Vista Capable" program was a bit of a mess, and it could get messier.

Microsoft is in the midst of its WinHec 2008 gathering with hardware vendors this week in Los Angeles, talking through what's next and how to prepare. Meanwhile, a federal judge's ruling on its "Vista Capable" program could hit this week.

The judge previously required Microsoft to disgorge internal e-mails that revealed Microsoft was hawking a product it knew wouldn't work as advertised, and ultimately created a fair amount of ill will among hardware vendors.

Given that the ruling is likely to include additional sensitive internal e-mails and documents related to hardware compatibility with Vista, the timing couldn't be worse, as TechFlash's Todd Bishop describes:

It's not clear what remains to be revealed. But lawyers for the plaintiffs submitted a large collection of documents, under seal, to support a motion for partial summary judgment in late September. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman is considering whether to unseal at least a portion of those documents, making them available for public review.

From a public-relations standpoint, Microsoft would no doubt prefer...any new Windows Vista revelations didn't come during the WinHEC week. But it's not clear precisely when Pechman will rule. In addition to the sealed documents, the judge is weighing requests by the plaintiffs to depose Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and to send out their class-action notice via the Windows Update system normally used to distribute security patches...(B)ased on the principles applied previously in the case, it appears likely that many of the documents will be unsealed.

Microsoft has weathered worse storms before, and it will weather this one. But I'm sure it would prefer a booze-fest with hardware vendors over the boo-fest it will receive if more damaging e-mails come to light this week.