This week, Microsoft launched its MSN 8 advertising blitz, centered around the theme "It's Better With the Butterfly," a nod to the service's rainbow-colored logo. MSN 8 will launch October 24 in New York City, but its advertising campaign was announced Monday in Superior, Wisconsin. Superior, that is, when compared to America Online (AOL).

"We are investing $300 million to communicate with people about MSN 8 because we want consumers to know that finally there is a better alternative to the status quo when it comes to Internet services," says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft vice president for MSN. "We believe when consumers compare MSN 8 with their existing service, MSN will win, hands down, because it allows consumers to communicate better, protect their family better and browse better than ever."

 MSN currently has 9 million subscribers, but lags behind market leader AOL, which has 34 million subscribers. To lure AOL customers to its new service, Microsoft has equipped MSN 8 with innovative new features like parental controls, virus-filtered email, access to exclusive online content, and PDA synchronization. Of course, AOL isn't sitting still either. Its new AOL 8 software hits the streets today with a customizable Welcome screen, an AOL Companion for consolidating alerts, and other new features. Battle of the 8s, anyone?