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Microsoft's 'Apple Tax' faces another audit

This time it is Business Week taking issue with Microsoft's math. But while Redmond may be wrong in the numbers, it's finally picked the right area to focus its attack.

Microsoft's latest anti-Apple campaign continues to draw fire, a sure sign that the company has finally at least gotten in the game.

The latest critique comes from BusinessWeek's Arik Hesseldahl. Hessedahl points out that the sticker price of the laptop is just the start of the comparison and suggests it is the Windows computer, rather than the Mac, that is loaded with hidden costs.

Microsoft, of course, made the opposite claim with it's "Apple Tax" return, which argued that owning a pair of Macs costs thousands more than two PCs over their lifetime.

And although I was the first to call Microsoft out for its faulty math, I will also say this. The fact that Microsoft was able to get people fired up shows that Microsoft has at least found the right area to focus its energies.

Until now, its 7-month-old Windows advertising campaign has been a rambling affair, shifting quickly from one disparate subject to another, from Seinfeld's shoes to cute little kids. In fact, one of the only things that the campaign's early pieces had in common was the fact that none were the kind of thing that would generate much real discussion on the issues.

That hasn't been the case since Microsoft shifted to its "laptop hunter" ads which focus directly on costs. Whether you agree or disagree with Microsoft's math, we are all finally talking about the relative costs of a Windows PC versus a Mac.

Even Apple has chosen to weigh in on Microsoft's latest claims. In a statement, Apple notes that "millions of people have switched to Mac because they love the security, stability, and power that comes with world-class hardware and amazing software that just works, right out of the box."

It puts its own spin on the price issue.

"A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Apple said.

Let the games go on. At a minimum, this should be fun to watch.