The PC/Mac ads from Apple have become a pop culture image well known across the country, even creating acting careers for the two actors. They portray PC, with his Windows Vista as porcine and gauche, while portraying Mac as young and suave. Microsoft hopes to destroy this image with a new campaign.  (Source: Apple)
Microsoft is fighting back against certain pesky unnamed competitors with ads and a creative app to pass the blame

Apple enjoys a rather fortunate position in the computer business and operating system business in some respects.  On the one hand it has such small OS and hardware marketshare that large leaders like Microsoft are unlikely to take it too seriously, allowing it to wage a clever campaign of attack ads, swaying public opinion.  On the other hand, its marketing campaign allows it to vigorously grow without substantially changing its offerings, which it hopes will catapult it to the status of a serious competitor.

Leading the attack are Apple's “Mac Guy, PC Guy" ads which depict Windows/PC as a chubby overweight maladroit businessman, while OS X/Mac is a hip, suave younger man.  The ads offer up criticism of Windows -- be it real or made up -- fueling popular criticism of Windows Vista.  The ads have lead to public misconceptions such as Windows being less secure, when in fact most security experts believe Macs to be far easier to hack, due to poor patching.

Microsoft has long sat and watched these attacks with a sort of resigned indignation.  Bill Gates once remarked, "I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it's superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?"

Now Microsoft is fed up enough that it is vowing not to take Apple's tongue-lashing anymore.  Brad Brooks, Corporate Vice President of Windows Consumer Product at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston announced during his keynote address July 8 that Microsoft is launching a $300M USD advertising counteroffensive against certain unnamed competitors.

He stated, "We know our story is very different from what our competitors want us to think.  Today we are drawing a line and are going to start telling the real story (about Vista)."

Mr. Brooks decline to specifically call Apple out, instead alluding to a "pretty noisy competitor out there".  He says, however, that Microsoft will strike back at noise makers with a pricey ad campaign being designed by marketing gurus Crispin Porter +Bogusky.

The problems with Windows Vista, Mr. Brooks accuses were due to hardware manufacturers negligently expecting Windows Vista not to be delivered on time, and then being left unprepared when it was.  He did acknowledge that security changes and other changes broke numerous hardware and software apps.  However, he says Microsoft fixed virtually all these problems and continues to hone Vista.

Warnings to hardware partners to prepare for Windows 7, previously delivered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, were reiterated by Mr. Brooks.  If partners don't act, they risk losing support from Microsoft according to Ballmer's previous remarks.  Windows 7 is the successor to Windows Vista, due in 2009 by latest reports.

In an attempt to tout how compatible Vista has become, Mr. Brooks unveiled the new portal site "Windows Vista Compatibility Center".  The site currently lists 9,000 devices and software products (3,500 apps and 5,500 devices) compatible with Vista.  Microsoft hopes to up this list soon based on feedback.

Microsoft is also preparing a secret weapon; it has developed a new system tool called Windows Advisor, which some are calling the "Don't Blame Vista" tool.  The new tool assesses system problems and tries to convince users that they are not Vista's fault.  It assigns blame to everything from user impatience to virus and spyware.

Also announced by Mr. Brooks was a new business ad campaign titled "Move to Windows Vista with Confidence".  Vista adoption by businesses has been painfully poor, with even longtime "Wintel" partner Intel forsaking the OS, deigning it not worth the costs.  The new campaign is aimed mainly at small businesses, a possible growth area.

In its campaign Microsoft states, "Risks are a part of every small business. Making the move to Windows Vista isn’t one of them. Buy a new PC with genuine Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate and receive free coaching and support from Microsoft to help you get the most out of Windows."

Microsoft will offer goodies to participants -- free phone support; tips and tricks via a new Vista Small Business Assurance Web site; and access to existing online tools and guidance.

Mr. Brooks concluded his pro-Windows rally stating, "Windows Vista is a good product.  The quiet majority of millions and millions of Windows Vista users out there are going to have a great experience.  The message is ‘Move to Vista. The time of worry is over.’"

It should be interesting how Microsoft's new more aggressive methods pan out.  Will they help repair Vista's tarnished consumer image, which has become somewhat of a pop culture humor piece?  Will they convince some stubborn users to finally move from XP?  Only time will tell, but it’s definitely a new tactic from Microsoft.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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