XP Reloaded Phase 3 Windows Marketing Campaign on Tap 

This week Microsoft 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 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. 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) 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.

Microsoft Ships New Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 Beta Releases 

On Monday, Microsoft shipped the second beta release of Visual Studio 2005 and the NET Framework 2.0, both codenamed Whidbey, along with the SQL Server 2005 April Community Technology Preview (CTP), another prerelease version of the company's upcoming database server software. Continually delayed, these products are now expected in the second half of 2005.

"Delivering Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 and the SQL Server 2005 April CTP to customers is a milestone because it indicates that we've entered the final stages of the development cycle for both products," said Eric Rudder, Microsoft's senior vice president of servers and tools. "When we set out to develop these products, we envisioned building a solution that offered unprecedented integration between development and the database to help our customers be more productive. With these releases we've delivered on that promise and expect to drastically change the way our customers develop and utilize their applications."

With the beta 2 release of the NET Framework 2.0, Microsoft is issuing customers a GoLive license that will let them ship beta based code in production products. This license applies to solutions created with prerelease versions of ASP NET 2 0 Windows Forms Visual Studio Tools for Office and NET Compact Framework br Microsoft says that the SQL Server 2005 April CTP release is feature complete The company is deploying that release of SQL Server 2005 internally and says that it has more than 65 SQL Server 2005 based applications in production today Microsoft has a strong tradition of using its prerelease products in house a process it calls dog fooding the releases.

Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 is available for public download from the Microsoft Web site. The SQL Server 2005 April CTP is available today to beta testers and to MSDN Universal Enterprise and Professional subscribers.