The judge on the class action lawsuit against Microsoft for those Vista handi-capable stickers unsealed a bunch of super-juicy internal emails exchanged between Microsoft higher-ups (including Ballmer) on Vista's suckiness. They weren't oblivious to the fact that "Vista capable" machines were horrible—but they let it slide, according to exec John Kalkman:
"To help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded."
Apparently, HP had made "significant product roadmap changes to support graphics for the full Vista experience," specifically conditioned on Microsoft's "100% assurance that [Microsoft] would not budge for Intel," according to one of the emails. But they did. (And thus ensues a bunch of placating emails and explanations to HP.)
Windows-chief-at-the-time Steven Sinofsky knew the 915s were not up to the task and that labeling machines carrying them wasn't a good idea:
"The '915' chipset which is not Aero capable is in a huge number of laptops and was tagged as 'Vista Capable' but not Vista Premium. I don't know if this was a good call. But these function but will never be great. Even a 945 set has new builds of drivers coming out constantly but hopes are on the next chipset rather than this one."
Absolutely ridiculous—hosing customers to fatten Intel's bottom line. Apple fanboy or not, one thing they wouldn't do is shit on their own OS (partially out of vanity, true) so that Intel could dump a bunch of aging chips. [The Docs (PDF), Seattle PI]