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Taking the long view of Vista

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When Microsoft Corp. revealed last month that its much-anticipated, much-delayed Windows Vista operating system would be delayed again, longtime Microsoft watchers like myself took the news in stride. "What, Microsoft is late with a Windows product release? I'm shocked, shocked … ." The business version of Vista is scheduled for the second half of this year (Microsoft says November); the consumer version is slated for January 2007.

In the meantime, Microsoft undoubtedly is continuing its research, evaluating the receptivity of different customer segments to Vista's features—work that will inform its advertising and marketing going forward.

In mid-March, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the company's "People Ready" software vision, supported by a $500 million global marketing and sales campaign to communicate the company's software value for business. In this issue, Senior Reporter Carol Krol looks at the launch of the "People Ready" campaign (page 3) and, in our Market Research Special Report, Senior Reporter Kate Maddox focuses on how Microsoft used research to tailor its messaging (page 62).

How Microsoft promotes Vista to business consumers, especially to businesses that may not see a compelling reason to upgrade from Windows XP, will be a fascinating, high-stakes game to watch, and a story BtoB will cover carefully.

How companies listen to their customers and prospects is the topic of our Market Research Special Report, which begins on page 61. It is also a topic of concern to the CMO Council, which recently surveyed more than 550 marketers about their use of—and confidence in—customer intelligence systems and processes. The results were not encouraging, writes Christopher Kenton, a senior VP at the CMO Council, in his essay analyzing the research (page 56). The survey revealed, among other things, that two-thirds of respondents had no formal system for "tracking marketing's role in customer acquisition, retention and value creation," Kenton writes.

Aside from these serious questions, the good news is that ad spending among the techs, particularly online, is a significant chunk of the total and apparently growing, albeit slowly. A new eMarketer report, "Technology Marketing: Customer Driven Convergence," predicts online technology ad spending will hit $2.8 billion in 2007, led by the computing (hardware and software) category, which is projected to account for about 16% of all online ads. Computing products advertising, as a share of total online spending, had dipped in the recent past, to 18% in 2004 from 20% of all online advertising in 2003. For 2006, the share of total spending remains flat at 15%, eMarketer said.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and Media Business and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.

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