Vista is a nice upgrade from Windows XP but it’s hardly a ground-shaking product even after five years of development and 50 million lines of code. The lack of enthusiasm has been muted (highlighted by the WSJ’s Walter Mossberg who described it as “worthy, but largely unexciting product”.

So what can Microsoft do to get people talking about Vista, which has many attractive features and far better security? How about spending a whopping $500-million on advertising, which makes the $150,000 or so that Microsoft spent sending free Ferrari laptops to bloggers look like a drop in the bucket. Over the next little while, it is going to be impossible to avoid Vista. There will TV commercials, billboards, magazine, newspaper ads and public transit vehicles featuring Vista. Even Bill Gates is getting into the action by making appearances all over the place, including The Daily Show.

The strange and ironic part about spending $500-million (which is higher than the GDP of 17 countries) is, at the end of the day, most people will end up buying Vista anyway. At some point, you’ll have no choice but to trade in your Pentium III, 1GB machine for someone even more powerful, which, of course, will be powered by Vista. It’s like that old Fram oil filter ad where the garage mechanic says “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later”. Well, you get Vista now or get Vista later but either way you’re going to get it – unless you’re a Mac-ite.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting Vista is a bad or unworthy product. I’m just saying there’s no reason to be rushing out the door to upgrade if your computer is doing most of what you want it to do now. My sense is Vista is just phase one of a multi-part plan to introduce a far better OS than XP. Rather than delay Vista’s launch, Microsoft finally got it/rushed it out the door, which likely explains why people see it as alright but not earth-shattering.

For more, check out this video by the NYT’s David Pogue, who looks at how much Microsoft borrowed by the Mac. Engagdet’s Peter Rojas blogged live from the official Windows Vista launch event in NYC, while CrunchGear offers up six good reasons not to upgrade to Vista.

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