Brooks gave a keynote speech at the conference, which also included a partner roundtable talk -- all of which was aimed at defending Windows Vista and persuading businesses to buy it, as described by Redmond Channel Partner Senior Editor Lee Pender at the event.
The new small business Vista support effort that Brooks described is called "Windows Vista Small Business Assurance." It's designed to provide "free support, compatibility assistance, and one-on-one coaching" via the telephone to Vista users, according to the program's Web site. The free support, for qualifying Vista purchasers, will last until Oct. 31, 2008.
Microsoft will even provide downgrade support from Vista to Windows XP under the program, according to the site's FAQ.
"In cases where a small business customer cannot overcome an incompatibility issue and has the PC's recovery media disc for Windows XP, we are equipped to help with a downgrade over the phone," the FAQ reads.
To qualify for the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program, a small business has to have purchased "new PCs with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate between July 1, 2008 and September 30, 2008," according to Microsoft's announcement.
Microsoft defines a small business as one that has "fewer than 50 employees or 25 PCs," according to the announcement.
Brooks also described a new Web site designed to address public doubts about Vista's compatibility with software and devices. The site, called Windows Vista Compatibility Center, lets users see "all of the devices and applications that are compatible with Windows Vista," Brooks said.
As of press time, the Windows Vista Compatibility Center was a dead page with a message that it "will be launching soon."
Brooks did acknowledge that Vista had some initial compatibility problems that have improved over the last few months. However, he attributed those problems to advancements Microsoft made in the new operating system's security.
"We made some significant investments around security in this product," Brooks said of Windows Vista, according to a transcript. "And you know what, those investments, they broke some things. They broke a lot of things. We know that. And we know it caused you a lot of pain in front of your customers, in front of our customers. And it got a lot of customers thinking, and even yourselves and our partners thinking, 'Hey, is Windows Vista a generation that I want to make an investment in?'"
Brooks said there are a lot of myths about Windows Vista, and Microsoft planned to do something about it. He told the largely Microsoft partner crowd in Houston that Microsoft plans to invest in a new campaign to bolster Vista in the marketplace, which will be announced in the next few weeks and months. He particularly noted the damage done by Apple's Mac vs. boring PC guy ads, suggesting a different take.
"Free the people: That is what we do, that is what we do every day -- that is the value that we create for the world today," Brooks said.
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