How to Generate Vista Buzz: Spend $500M on Ads

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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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  • Anonymous

    It really doesn’t matter too much whether or not Vista will be on the desktops of the public so much as just keeping the product in people’s mind. Windows is Microsoft’s main product, it is what generates a large amount of their business and is the center of their universe (they are trying to diversify but it is proving time consuming). Like any other company, you have to invest in it with talent as well as advertising.

    Microsoft knows everyone is going to get it, but in order to stay on top they have to be in the minds of a consumer otherwise you will get more and more people saying “Maybe I should buy a mac” or “Perhaps I will get linux preinstalled this time around”

    The one problem that Microsoft has this time around though that it never had before was the lack of enthusiasm by techies and the public in general. With cut back features (dropping winfs for instance) and a soft launch to businesses earlier, it really needs to hit hard with the advertising just to keep the name out there and on top of what it does best… software.

    As a developer it also gets me into buzzing about what it could mean from a programming world, how will it interact with other software, what can I actually do with it. Perhaps they got it stuck in my mind… and as a consumer (like millions of others) that is worth the $500M they used to get it there even if I am staying with XP for awhile longer.

  • William Lehman

    I think It’s time to make my laptop dual boot with ubuntu linux and xp and eventually try to migrate to linux completely. Open-source development has come a long way in a very short amount of time.

    I think the mantra of many former Microsoft users is going to be “if there is a time to move to linux, it’s now!”

    More people moving to linux means that development will also get a spike of ingenuity as well with everyday people needing to use linux machines. I am looking forward to what will happen in this arena.

  • jedeco

    Walter Mossberg, and many others who claim Vista is a “non-exciting” upgrade from XP have got it ALL wrong.
    I mean the UI is worth the upgrade itself, don’t get me wrong, it’s great, but as for “ground breaking” changes, the pundits would have just found ways to complain about how they didn’t work as well as they imagined or whatever.
    Vista is a total re-write and it’s security has been said to be the best available now. Many security professionals call it no contest between OSX and Vista….Vista’s security is far technologicaly superior. THAT is the best reason to move to Vista. There also has been a rewrite of the kernel that makes the Windows OS MUCH more stable and powerful than XP.
    The pundits would have just called anything more bells and whistles and most people know that. There is very vocal minority of MS haters out there that have gone to extremes this time around. Even Steve Jobs himself has spent a full hour at 2 seperate WWDC conferences dissing Vista (while the Leopard screen shot behind him looked more like Vista than anything else. And the MS “stole” from Apple myth. Pls let’s put that to rest. They have traded technology over the years far beyond what the pundits know. MS provided their original developer platform for the Apple II machines and for the next decade, along with the MSO system for Mac, i think Apple stayed alive in the mid-90s due to that. Had their small market at that time not been using MSO for mac, they may have actually sunk before they turned it around enough to limp to Jobs’ return. but the main point is MS got some GUI code, perhaps, Apple got a lot of system code out of it. ).
    So Vista added Great security. A great new kernel that is derived from MinWin technology actually and has has many dependencies isolated and disattached via componentization.
    If a more productive, more powerful more stable more secure OS is not a HUGE step forward, then why have the ABMers been screaming for those VERY things for 7 years?
    Let’s face it, MS has lost the popularity contest in the industry and their has been a LOT of Vigillante type bashing of MS to taint it’s image. There was with XP but the army of zealots were not sufficient enough then to leak into the mainstream. This time they were. Better organized, the FSF, run by a man who i personally think is partially crazy and writes licensing that includes words like “you cannot allow your software to work with Microsoft Windows” etc. That is like a little boy saying you can’t play with his toys. It’s insane and flying in the face of many who want MS and Linux integration in their shops. I think that hands Linux the losing card in that case. And we’ve seen MS server 2003 take the windows server marketshare to 57% and IIS7 has been extremely popular.
    Bottom line, Vista is a very worthy upgrade. Unless you don’t mind the less secure XP or OSX, the less stable XP or OSX and not be able to run many powerful and high end apps at the same time w/o a moments notice or problem.
    Finally, Vista runs 43% faster than XP with Server 2008. And with Hyper-V and 2008’s kernel, which is even more advanced than Vista’s in terms of minwin technology, it will be the server OS of choice.

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