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"Are there people here," Bill Gates asked in his Comdex speech, "who have not heard of Windows 95?"

Happily for Microsoft Corp.'s chairman, everyone at the computer convention last year knew about the new operating system. Even better, potential customers also recognize it.

It's amazing what a $200 million advertising campaign can do to build name recognition.

Windows 95, Advertising Age's Product of the Year, was the first major new computer product to arrive since the masses embraced PCs, and Microsoft captured the moment with a product that became an event.

The marketing tactics behind the Windows 95 launch-TV, print and co-op ads, PR and publicity stunts, in-store promotions-were hardly original. But never before had a marketer pulled all the pieces together to create what literally was an overnight global sensation: Computer stores around the world opened at 12 a.m. Aug. 24 to hoards of crazed customers.

Windows 95 might just be software, but Mr. Gates, Ad Age's 1994 Marketer of the Year, convinced PC makers and retailers that it was the future. And so it became the future, since it's now nearly impossible to buy a home PC not equipped with Windows 95.

The problem is Windows 95 never could be as big as the hype. Stores ordered too many copies, leading to negative press reports when they sent boxes back to Microsoft. Dataquest, a market researcher, last month cut its forecast of 1995 Windows 95 worldwide sales to 16.4 million copies from 20 million.

Now Microsoft is getting serious with new print ads to deflect concerns it's too power-hungry for old PCs. "You don't need a small mainframe," says one ad, "to run Windows 95...So relax.'

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