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The consumer and small business launch of Microsoft Windows Vista and Office on Jan. 30 meant very little for business customers, but for VARs and partners trying to sell it to them, it’s the air cover they’ve been waiting for.

The first mass-market Vista marketing blitz hits the airwaves and billboards Feb. 1, with a spot on CBS Television’s CSI, and with it comes the “softening up” VARs need when they go calling on customers, especially in the small and midsize business market.

Partners have been able to sell the product since Nov. 30, when Microsoft launched business versions of Vista and Office to OEMs, resellers and CompUSA, but VARs have been reporting little demand for the software and little help from Redmond in marketing the product.

Microsoft expects that to change with the Jan. 30 launch, especially in the SMB market, where the lines between consumer and business are blurry and the technologically unsavvy learn about technology from mass media.

“We tried to get out the word to the SMB about volume licensing opportunities available since November,” said Cynthia “Cindy” Bates, general manager of Microsoft’s U.S. Small Business Group. “But the fact is, most will hear about it from the general availability launch. This period beginning Jan. 30 is when customers will knock on partners’ doors.”