Not surprisingly, Microsoft's recent "blind taste test" of Windows Vista has yielded the kind of PR bonanza that Microsoft couldn't beg, borrow or steal just a few weeks ago. This week, the company released a slew of videos showing some of the 140 consumers videotaped in San Francisco using Vista for the first time. But the users weren't told they were using Vista, as they were selected specifically because they believed that Vista wasn't any good. Instead, these people believed they were using a future Windows version, codenamed Windows "Mojave."

The comments made by these individuals are emblematic of the problems Microsoft now faces when it tries to market Vista to a world that, apparently, has already made up its mind about the OS. "I heard negative things; I never tried it myself," one woman says. "I wouldn't touch the thing." "It's horrible, it has so many problems." "I've heard nothing but bad things about Vista, really." On and on it goes. On a scale from 1 to 10, the average pre-rating for Windows Vista was 4.4, Microsoft says.

Then, the users were shown "Mohave" and walked through (Vista) features like backup and restore, parental controls, recording TV, and making DVD movies. The comments changed dramatically "Wow!" "I like that security feature." (Breathlessly) "That's great." "It's awesome." "Really cool." "It's really impressive." "It's totally different from what I heard it would be like." "It's an awesome program, but you have to see it for yourself." The average rating after the hands-on demonstration was 8.5. "Many would have rated it higher, but they wanted more time to play with it themselves," Microsoft notes.

Most tellingly, perhaps, not one of the 140 participants rated Vista lower than their initial pre-rating after having actually used the OS. And fully 94 percent of respondents rated Vista more highly.

The best part of this experiment, of course, is when the participants were told that they were really using Windows Vista. "Really?" one man asks, incredulously. Mouths literally drop. Laughter ensues. "Son of a gun," one man says. "You got me."

Perhaps. Or perhaps it was Apple with its often questionable anti-Vista advertising. Perhaps it was the under-qualified but pontificating tech pundits who bashed Vista incessantly. Or maybe it was, to be fair, Microsoft's months of silence on this issue. By doing nothing for so long, Microsoft has only exacerbated the problem.

Criticisms aside, Microsoft is finally fighting back. Finally. Turns out, all it had to do--go figure--is show people what Vista is really like. What a concept.

You can check out the videos on the Mohave Experiment Web site.