July 22, 2008, 11:57 am Microsoft Tries to Polish Vista By Saul Hansell Microsoft is really taking the gloves off this time. ZDNet is reporting that it will spend $500 million to make a powerful statement to its hundreds of millions of customers. I imagine the statement would have to go something like this: Windows Vista isnt really as bad as they say. Honest. Please dont be mad at us. We promise our next operating system will be better. Pinky swear. Those arent exactly the words they use, but it is certainly the tone of the ad that Microsoft has started running on its site. I cant find it, but Ed Bott at ZDNet did and has a copy here. It shows a painting of a tall ship with the headline At one point everyone thought the Earth was flat. Get the facts about Windows Vista. That promotion leads to a page that acknowledges that Vista had problems: But we know a few of you were disappointed by your early encounter. Printers didnt work. Games felt sluggish. You told usloudly at timesthat the latest Windows wasnt always living up to your high expectations for a Microsoft product. It takes a minute to figure out where to find Microsofts response to this criticism: You need to click some arrows on the page. (Why cant Microsoft use the plus Icon popularized by Google and lots of others?) The company asserts that it is now compatible with the vast bulk of software and hardware. It also boasts that Vista is more secure, faster, uses less energy and is even sexier. Sure, Windows Vista gets a lot of compliments on its aesthetics. But its style serves an important purpose: to put everything within a clicks reach and make you more productive. Microsoft, is probably right that Vista gets a bit of a bum rap. Lots of people find that Vista works fine and is an improvement over Windows XP. I use Vista on a home computer with little trouble. (And no, I dont hate Microsoft, despite what some commenters say. I am a big fan of Word 2007, and I even pay for Microsofts OneCare anti-virus and backup software.) But this is still a dreadful place for Microsoft to be. It is fighting Google on one side and Apple on the other. And both of those companies have flaws, products that dont quite work right, have gaps and disappoint users. But both Google and Apple have products that you dont need to be told to notice they are sexy. That changes how people see the more prosaic parts of their product lines and makes people far more open to considering new products. Even if you are a big fan of Microsoft, consider which you would rather read about first: a something new from Google, Apple or Microsoft? After spending $500 million, Microsoft might be able to convince people that Windows Vista is not awful. But just because you can show the earth is not flat, doesnt mean you will rule the new world.