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Microsoft invests in ads, multitouch

Despite searching for ways to tighten its belt, Microsoft is still spending in many areas. Its latest investments include a stake in a multitouch start-up as well as a new ad campaign aimed at businesses.

A rough economy isn't stopping Microsoft from spending in key areas. The software maker on Monday announced a new ad campaign aimed at wresting spending from cash-strapped companies as well as the company's own investment into a start-up focused on multitouch.

In the latter area, Microsoft is part of a $24 million financing round for N-trig, a Kfar Saba, Israel-based company that provides technology for sensing pen and touch input. The size of Microsoft's stake was not disclosed.

N-trig's technology is used in current multitouch computers from companies such as Dell and HP, a category Microsoft hopes to expand by building gesture support directly into Windows 7.

"With the introduction of multitouch in Windows 7, integrated with N-trig's DuoSense technology, our customers will have a new and natural way to interact with their PCs," Microsoft Group Program Manager Ian LeGrow said in N-Trig's press statement. "By simulating the way people write and touch naturally, N-trig is helping to make it easier to navigate your PC and enable a new class of Windows experiences."

An image of a print ad from Microsoft's "everybody's business" ad push. Microsoft

As for Microsoft's new ads, they started running during Sunday's NFL playoff coverage and carry the theme "Because it's everybody's business" and is part of the company's long-running "people-ready" campaign. They are designed to feature specific customers, such as Quicksilver and Coca-Cola talking about how they are using Microsoft products to ride the waves, quite literally in Quicksilver's case.

In a Q and A posted to Microsoft's press Web site, General Manager Gayle Troberman said that the time was right for Microsoft to tout what it has to offer businesses.

"We think software can provide one of the biggest competitive advantages, and that's especially critical now when a lot of companies are struggling just to keep the lights on," Troberman said. "Microsoft's view is that business leaders who maintain a long-term perspective--even as they take short-term steps to adjust to the current economic realities--have the chance to emerge from a downturn in a better position than they were in before.

Although the company is spending on ads, Troberman indicated the company may not be spending as much as it originally had planned.

"As for executing the campaign, we've taken a hard look at every advertising and marketing dollar we're spending, and there are areas where we're changing plans," Troberman said. "We also think we're getting a great deal on advertising 'real estate' right now, so we hope we can get a lot more value out of the dollars we are spending today."

In an interview last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that the company is taking a tough look at where it can cut spending but declined to offer specifics, noting that the company is in a quiet period before announcing its earnings later this month.

"The fact of the matter is, this is not a downturn, this is a bit of a reset," Ballmer said. "Those are quite different and we're trying to really suss through what we think that means for us."

Both the N-trig investment and the business ad push were reported on Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.