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Microsoft offers first hints at anti-Apple marketing blitz for Vista

Microsoft this week offered a window into the first phase of a mega million dollar advertising campaign designed to clear up 'misconceptions' about the quality of its Windows Vista operating system exacerbated by in-your-face marketing efforts on the part of longtime rival Apple.

The first series of ads in the campaign were reportedly met with rave reviews last week when they were previewed at Microsoft’s employees-only Global Exchange conference.

"[I] got goosebumps - just, wow," said one insider who was privy to the preview.

While those ads have yet to surface publicly, the first instances of an associated Web campaign spotted by ZDNet suggests the Redmond-based software giant will attempt to alter the perception of Vista by liking its critics to proponents of flat earth theory.

Instead of responding directly to Apple's influential "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" global campaign, an ad that appears on the company's website (below) recalls that "at one point, everyone thought the Earth was flat." It links to a recently established information base on the state of Windows Vista, which attempts to "clear up some confusion and lingering misunderstandings" about the XP successor while simultaneously admitting to some early missteps.

"We know a few of you were disappointed by your early encounter. Printers didn't work. Games felt sluggish. You told us—loudly at times—that the latest Windows wasn't always living up to your high expectations for a Microsoft product," the company said. "Well, we've been taking notes and addressing issues."

What follows are a series of common questions on the part of would-be Vista adopters, such as "Why do I keep reading that Windows Vista won't work with my hardware or software?," along with answers.

"We know that's what some people are saying on the Internet," the company said, opting not to mention Apple by name. "And in its early days, Windows Vista did experience some compatibility problems. But thanks to our industry partners' efforts during the past 18 months, here's where things stand today."

According to Microsoft, Vista now supports nearly 77,000 hardware products, runs 98 of the top 100 consumer software programs, and works with all of the leading small business applications.

The security of Vista is another matter which Microsoft believes to have been exploited unfairly by Apple's marketing tactics. As such, the company's references to the Mac maker and its Leopard operating system in this regard are not as subtle.

"Windows Vista has fewer than half the security vulnerabilities of Windows XP," Microsoft said. "It's also 60% less likely to be infected by spyware or malware than Windows XP SP2. And in early 2008, Windows Vista was shown to have 89% fewer vulnerabilities than MacOS X 10.5, making it the most secure Windows release to date."

In total, it's believed that Microsoft plans to spend more than $300 million on its pro Vista, anti Apple marketing blitz before the dust settles.