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Windows, not Walls

I was traveling yesterday, so I’m a bit behind on posting this but in the event you somehow missed it, Microsoft is apparently going to use former Mac poster boy Jerry Seinfeld to promote Windows Vista in a new series of ads:

Microsoft, weary of being cast as a stodgy oldster by Apple's advertising, is turning for help to Jerry Seinfeld.

The software giant's new $300 million advertising campaign, devised by a newly hired ad agency, has been closely guarded. But Mr. Seinfeld will be one of the key celebrity pitchmen, say people close to the situation. He will appear with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in ads and receive about $10 million for the work, they say.

The new ad effort is expected to use some variation of the slogan "Windows, Not Walls," according to several people familiar with the matter. Those people say the point is to stress breaking down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting. The campaign, said to debut Sept. 4, is one of the largest in the company's history.

Microsoft's immediate goal is to reverse the negative public perception of Windows Vista, the latest version of the company's personal-computer operating system. Windows is Microsoft's largest generator of profit and revenue, accounting for 28% of the company's revenue of $60.4 billion in the year ended June 30.

The software has sold well, and Microsoft retains an overwhelming share of the market for operating system software over Apple.

Apple's Macintosh computer business is dwarfed by Microsoft's share of the PC software market, but it has been gaining on its larger rival, accounting for 7.8% of new PC shipments in the U.S. in the second quarter, compared with 6.2% during the same period the prior year, according to research firm IDC. The vast majority of the rest of the market is made up of Windows PCs.

So. What do I think about this? Honestly, I’m not sure. On the one hand, Seinfeld is obviously funny, and his show was frequently hilarious. But that was a decade ago. Part of me is a bit concerned that Microsoft is going with an aging comedian 10 years after his only truly popular vehicle went off the air. Seems like a typical “try to be cool” move by Microsoft. That said, I do like the idea of using Gates. Microsoft has made dozens of hilarious internal videos over the years, many of which have popped up at trade show keynotes. I’ve always wondered why they didn’t use such things as ads. It looks like they’re heading in that direction.

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