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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Windows 98 marketing gathers steam

Vacation offers, free software, and so on--not to mention the Justice Department's investigation--are causing an explosion of publicity.

Vacation offers, free software, rebates, widespread retailer advertising, T-shirts, and massive exposure from the constant drumbeat of news on the Justice Department's investigation of Microsoft have touched off an explosion of publicity for Windows 98.

The software maker is doing its part to help the effort. In conjunction with Microsoft's "Coming Soon" program, retailers have begun to offer free items and other incentives to customers who place orders or prepurchase licenses for the updated operating system, scheduled to be released on June 25. Windows 98, aimed at consumer computers, will sell for a recommended retail price of $109.

The campaign is set against a backdrop of blow-by-blow coverage by major news media of the Justice Department's investigation of Microsoft's strategy of incorporating its Internet Explorer Web browser into Windows 98.

Retailers are tapping into this new-found awareness with aggressive advertising. Computer City, for instance, is giving customers a CD-ROM package containing software titles with an alleged value of $200 for pre-ordering Windows 98. Customers also become eligible to win one of four trips to the Windows 98 launch party.

Large resellers such as Computer Discount Warehouse and PC Mall are beginning chime in with aggressive advertising campaigns for Windows 98 and discount deals.

Meanwhile, direct-mail computer vendor TigerDirect is holding a sweepstakes with a grand prize of $98,000. Customers who preorder the operating system will get ten contest entries as well as an opportunity to buy 16MB of memory for $10.

TigerDirect customers will also become eligible for a $98 rebate on the All-in-Wonder television tuner card from ATI. One of Windows 98's most-touted innovations is support for TV tuner cards, which will allow users to receive TV signals on their PCs.

To date, Windows 98 had been coming to market with far less fanfare than its predecessor, Windows 95. Three years ago, Microsoft splashed its logo across the Empire State Building to promote the product, among other stunts. Frenzied customers stormed retailers at midnight to buy the OS.

Legal issues have partially offset lower-key marketing. The Justice Department has filed a antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft alleging anticompetitive business practices. The DOJ alleges Microsoft has incorporated Internet Explorer into its predominant OS so as to prevent other browser companies from competing in a separate software market.

Windows 98 is also not as significant as a technological upgrade. Earlier this year--before the legal issues with the DOJ came to a boiling point--Microsoft executives were calling Windows 98 an incremental upgrade.