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Seinfeld Master of Microsoft's Domain

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Software behemoth's new ad campaign about nothing.

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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, best known for his "show about nothing," will receive about $10 million to endorse Microsoft (MSFT.)

Has Bill Gates thought this one through? Linux and Apple (AAPL) devotees love to sneer that Microsoft Windows is nothing much - so you can just hear them chortling at the idea of Seinfeld, Mr. Nothing himself, plugging it.

It doesn't help that Seinfeld's character owned several different Mac computers over the course of the sitcom's run - and the MacWarehouse catalogue was once casually displayed on the coffee table.

The new $300 million ad campaign is part of Microsoft's effort to counter those snappy Apple ads showing a PC nerd being whupped by a hip Mac user, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Microsoft's new ad campaign is likely to push a variation of the familiar "Windows, Not Walls" slogan. Seinfeld and Gates will appear in the ads, insiders say, but Microsoft declined to comment.

Microsoft seeks to counter the ugly public image of Windows Vista, the latest edition of the company's PC operating system. Windows generated about 28% of Microsoft's $60.4 billion in revenue for the year ended June 30.

Linux, an open-source software, competes with Microsoft for corporate enterprise applications. Linux software is free, though support is provided by companies like Red Hat (RHT).

Apple, which has pointedly removed "computer" from the company's name as it moves twoard high-tech gizmos such as the iPhone and iPod, accounted for about 7.8% of new personal computer shipments in the US in the second quarter, compared with 6.2% during the same period last year. Microsoft Windows holds most of the remaining share of the PC market.

Microsoft's planned ad campaign is expected to highlight the key role Windows plays in the company's efforts to move into new areas. Revenue generated by Windows is invested in other areas, including online services that are important to Microsoft's future growth.

But users consider Microsoft stodgy, unreliable and uncool.

The appearance of Gates in the ads suggests that Microsoft will continue to use his celebrity status, even though he's backed away from full-time work at the software giant to focus on philanthropy.

In the last 10 years, Gates has appeared with many celebrities: A recent video shown at geek events presented a light-hearted depiction of Gates' last day on the job with rapper Jay-Z, rock star Bono and actor Matthew McConaughey.

Microsoft's new ad campaign was cooked up by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Miami firm that has had a hand in pumping new life into a number of brands.

Seinfeld's sitcom halted production in 1998. But a survey by Davie-Brown Entertainment ranked him 41st out of more than 1,900 celebrities in terms of appeal.

There are any number of clubs devoted to hating Microsoft. One typically understated Web site proclaims, "Microsoft is the focus of evil in the modern world" and "Bill Gates is the anti-Christ." Another slightly more subdued site offers a "personal, lengthy but highly articulate outburst" on the depravity of Bill's software.

Well, now. All Gates did was change the world, putting more computing power at PC users' fingertips than the Apollo astronauts took to the moon in 1969 - and at a much better price.

For more on Bill Gates, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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