Microsoft Begins New Windows Vista Push - 10 Sep 2008

Almost two years after the OS was finalized, Microsoft is beginning a new push to sell consumers on Windows Vista. The timing might seem odd, given that Microsoft has sold an approximate 200 million Vista licenses so far and dominates its nearest competitor by a factor of over 30 to 1. But a concerted effort from the software giant's competitors and other enemies have had an effect, however misguided, on consumer opinions of the quality of Vista. And Microsoft, finally, is fighting back.

Microsoft's approach is multi-pronged. Last month, the company's viral "Mojave Experiment" ads began appearing on the Web before moving this month to TV. In the ads, people who have never used Vista but are convinced that the product is horrible are fooled into believing in a blind-taste-test-type experiment that they're using a future version of Windows. Universally, these Vista haters rate the future OS very highly ... only to be later told that they're actually using Windows Vista.

Late last week, the second prong of this campaign began with the first in a long series of ads starring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. While reviews of the first ad have been decidedly mixed, Microsoft says it was just an "icebreaker," and the company may indeed be onto something, as the ad does indeed portray Microsoft in a more humble and human way than the company's ads of the past.

Microsoft will run more Seinfeld/Gates ads, of course. But the company has other plans to turn consumer opinions of Vista. For months, the company has been training 155 "Microsoft gurus" who will appear in Best Buy and other retail locations throughout the US, providing consumers with more accurate information about its latest OS, and provide a counter-attack to Apple's Best Buy-based "stores within a store." With 40 percent of all PCs being sold in retail locations, Microsoft decided it needed to become more directly involved.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft is working with PC makers--long believed to be responsible for many of Vista's perceived problems, thanks to their "crapware" bundling practices--to make their products perform better with the OS. Under a program called "Vista Velocity," new PCs are being tweaked with the proper drivers, improving performance by up to 60 percent.

And internally, Microsoft has created a small group, operating under the name FTP168 for "Free The People 24x7," tasked with turning public perception of Vista and promoting the use of Windows on the PC, on the Web, and the phone. With this initiative, Microsoft is looking ahead to a cloud computing-based future where more and more people access computing resource on non-traditional devices like smart phones.

So will it work? Vista is destined to sell several hundred million copies regardless. But Microsoft has bigger concerns that continuing its domination over Apple's Mac OS: It needs consumers to want to upgrade to new versions of Windows going forward and believe that it's already on the right path. Changing minds is a difficult thing to do, and with the ceaseless noise of Apple's deceptive "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads echoing throughout the public consciousness, it was arguably time for Microsoft to do something. The prognosis thus far is decidedly positive.

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