Microsoft has unveiled the third phase of its "XP Reloaded" plan, in which it's attempting to renew consumer enthusiasm in Windows XP, its 3.5-year-old OS. In phase 1 (August/September 2004), Microsoft released XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows Media Player (WMP) 10, the MSN Music preview, and XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, while its partners shipped the first Portable Media Centers. In phase 2 (October 2004) of XP Reloaded, Microsoft shipped XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005, WMP 10 Mobile, Photo Story 3, and the final version of MSN Music, while its partners shipped Media Center Extender devices. Now, in phase 3, Microsoft is unleashing a massive ad campaign, called "Start Something," that will bring its message to the people.

"As we enter the third decade of Windows, the Start Something campaign celebrates how people can follow their dreams and pursue what they're passionate about--from creating an in-home music studio to starting a new business or becoming the family photographer," said Will Poole, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Windows Client Business. "Windows has evolved to integrate a wide range of applications, services, and hardware in a way that has become familiar and expected as part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. We hope that people will be inspired to experience the endless possibilities available in the Windows ecosystem."

Start Something will run for 15 months and, according to Microsoft, will "celebrate the countless possibilities for Windows to bring what people are passionate about to life using the hundreds of thousands of software applications and devices that work with Windows XP." The campaign will include Web, print, and TV advertising; retail store presence; online activities; and more, according to the software giant. The advertisements will run in 11 countries, starting in the United States and then moving to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The company noted that the campaign will showcase 13 themes spanning education, science, music, sports, family and life management, gaming, photography, cooking, travel, entertainment, work, productivity, and entrepreneurship.

You might wonder why Microsoft is choosing now to launch this campaign, but the truth is that the Start Something ad campaign has been in the planning stages for about a year. However, conspiracy theorists can have fun with this tempting bit of coincidence: The XP ad campaign comes just before rival Apple Computer ships its next-generation Mac OS X release, codenamed Tiger.

In related news, Microsoft and the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) are also promoting a related campaign for the "Start Something PC" ( http://www.startsomethingpc.com ). My sources tell me that the Start Something PC is essentially a next-generation Athens PC prototype, which will be unveiled next week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2005 in Seattle. A preview movie for the PC promises that "something is coming ... something fun ... something with reward ... something with recognition ... something with style ... something inspired." Something tells me it won't be all that exciting.