Microsoft's Win 98 pitch touts product advantages

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When Microsoft Corp. launches Windows 98 advertising on June 25, it will take pains to explain the benefits, betting that a product pitch will work better than an emotional sell to push an operating system it acknowledges is more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Microsoft will support Windows 98 with a three-month, multimillion-dollar magazine and Web campaign. The budget wasn't disclosed, but it will be a fraction of the estimated $100 million spent in the U.S. on Windows 95.

"We don't make any claims that it is delivering the revolutionary changes that Windows 95 did," said Product Manager Kim Akers.

JUST IN CONSUMER MAGAZINES

The print buy will consist solely of consumer magazines, such as Bon Appetit, The New Yorker and Time, and consumer-computing titles, such as Equip and FamilyPC. Web ads will run across popular search, entertainment and information sites, such as Yahoo! and CNET.

Microsoft will use ads to hammer hard at product advantages. Magazine ads will feature products of hardware partners--ATI Technologies' TV add-in cards, Logitech's digital cameras, 3Com Corp.'s modems--designed to work with Windows 98.

The campaign will be the biggest Microsoft effort ever for a consumer-only product, and it will be its biggest-ever software campaign on the Internet.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., created the print and Web ads; Wieden placed print, while Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, bought the Web media.

While Windows 95 was intended for all, Microsoft is targeting Windows 98 only at consumers; it wants businesses to buy the more powerful Windows NT operating system, which gets a major revamping next year.

Windows 98 immediately will become the default operating system on new home PCs, but Ms. Akers said many business PC makers initially won't even offer the new operating system.

Microsoft this year will sell 56.7 million copies of Windows 98 for new PCs, accounting for more than half of the 110.6 million global market for new operating systems, estimates researcher Dataquest.

TARGETING UPGRADES

The ad campaign will target a different market: upgrades. An estimated 35 million PCs worldwide have the product specs to allow an upgrade. But Dataquest forecasts "modest to low interest" in upgrades, forecasting owners of only 5.5 million PCs will bother to buy Windows 98 this year.

Microsoft's Ms. Akers predicts the product will sell strongly based in part on word-of-mouth recommendations by consumers who buy the software.

But many computer experts question whether Windows 98 is enough of an improvement to warrant its $109 price tag.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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