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Microsoft has been active lately, showing some signs of spunk. I reported last week that Steve Ballmer was going straight after Apple at the McGraw Hill Summit (as I wrote in Ballmer Wastes No Words Going After Apple). This week we see the release of an ad campaign comparing Apple prices with PC prices, and it actually appears that there is some cohesiveness in the Microsoft message. Ballmer says Apple's too expensive, followed by the ad campaign that reinforces that message. I know, Marketing 101, but it's a change from what we have seen from Microsoft (and a stark departure from those awful Seinfeld and I'm a PC ads).

Microsoft Feels the Touch

Just this morning I came across a video demonstrating the upcoming Windows 7 touch screen features. Not that touch screens are anything new, but it appears that Microsoft is going to make a concerted effort to make themselves sound innovative and less expensive, two messages that could really resonate in today's tough economy. Fact is, as the young woman in the new ad points out, she simply can't afford a machine with the specs she wants from Apple. It's a weakness and Microsoft appears to be successfully exploiting it.

Windows 7 Hype

Microsoft has always been good at cranking up the hype machine ahead of OS releases. I've been using PCs since the 80s back in the days of the DOS prompt. I've been around long enough to recognize the pattern: get a lot of groundswell building around the next release of Windows. Get a bunch of tech journalists to fawn all over it and say how wonderful and stable it is, but when the party's over and the shiny paper and ribbons have been swept away, we are left with Windows, warts and all.

I don't have to tell you that most of us have seen Vista as an unmitigated disaster (as I wrote in How Much Does Vista Suck? Let me Count the Ways). Before you leave nasty comments, I know that it has worked just fine for some of you, but I can tell you that according to just about everything I've read and heard and experienced first hand (from running Vista on my wife and son's PCs), it was a huge failure as an OS. If you loaded it up with memory, you could hide some of the warts, but beyond that it was in a word: awful, which leads us to Windows 7.

No More Chances...

There's talk that Windows 7 is going to bring Windows back from the brink, and who knows, Windows 7 may be all that and a bag of chips. But if it's not; if it's just another blue-screen inducing, kludgy, poorly designed, memory-sucking effort with a touch screen overlay, it could be all she wrote for Microsoft as a consumer OS.

I'm willing to give it a chance and be open minded about it just as I did with Vista and all of the generations of Windows that came before it, but if I can offer you just a little advice Microsoft; don't screw this up. It could be your last chance.

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