Analysis If you listen very carefully, you'll hear a new beat coming from the drums in Microsoft's marketing department these days.
The message has come from the top and is beginning to percolate. "Windows Vista is great, just misunderstood," Redmond says. "Apple has twisted the facts and mislead gullible users, and analysts that criticize Windows Vista are either crazy or unreliable. Who can you trust? Microsoft."
The latest manifestation in this unfolding campaign is the Mojave Experiment, where Microsoft tricked ordinary people into liking Windows Vista, caught their reactions on "secret" camera and then posted them online. This follows the hardballing of analysts it disagrees with. We've been promised there's more to come. Can't wait.
Why, now that we're into Vista's second year and after the first Service Pack has launched, is Microsoft getting gung ho, especially if - as it claims - license sales are set to bust those of Windows XP?
The reason is that while the campaign is new, the issues for Microsoft are timeless, and it hasn't done itself any favors.
Windows Vista prior to SP 1 failed to meet the needs of ordinary users. And no amount of blaming Apple, analysts or stooopid users was going to change that.
A major block was the lack of third-party hardware or software support. What good is a PC operating system if there's no applications or peripherals to work with it?
Tellingly, Mojave seeks to address this. The web site notes there now exists 5,500 compatible devices and 3,500 software programs for Vista. But that's half as many devices as the company bragged about a year ago. Six months after Microsoft's January 2007 "consumer launch," it said 10,000 devices and 1,900 applications. No, we're not sure about the 10,000 number either, but it's possible Microsoft changed the metrics along the way.
Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner at the time of giving out the second set of numbers to partners last summer said: "We've made a big turn around on the application compatibility story, and we're just getting started."
The other big hurdle has been in getting Windows Vista to run properly on the average PC. Microsoft as good as admitted there was a problem with its Vista-ready and Vista-capable programs, and it has been in firefighting mode ever since, offering advice on how to speed up your PC to run Windows Vista.
The Mojave Experiment makes a point of saying it's using Windows Vista Ultimate on a regular, 2GB RAM, Intel Core 2 Due Hewlett-Packard PC. Nothing fancy there.
Except that as one former Microsoft Valued Professional pointed out in response to a blog from Windows client team communications director Chris Flores on Mojave, reality is different from a test machine. As we all know, most PCs soon begin to slow down in the real world.
"I am very capable of taking midline hardware and making XP screamingly fast on it, out of box. Once I start loading software and Active X objects and web components and spyware and spyware fighters well then everything gets sloowwww," the ex-MVP said. "Wanna see fast? Install [Windows] 98 on modern hardware, doesn't mean it's a secure or well-built OS."
It remains to be seen whether the Mojave Experiment will tackle these challenges. From what we can see in these very edited videos, there's a lot of focus on wowing users with eye candy. It's pitching against Windows XP and Apple on "look and feel", "new features" and "completeness", by picking on things like Gadgets and the Media Center.