Tuesday marked the launch of a six-month, $150 million (€128.36m; £89.56m) global marketing blitz for Microsoft's new Office 2003 software suite. Its task: to convince a skeptical corporate universe that the upgrade amounts to more than Office XP plus tweaks, patches, add-ons and hype.

An early scan of computer trade press reviews suggests that Microsoft may have an uphill task.

Analysts and industry onlookers believe the massive dollar investment underpinning the new suite is an attempt to head-off competitors at the pass. Sun Microsystems recently introduced its own StarOffice suite of business programs, while IBM is aggressively marketing similar software to small and medium-size businesses alongside its hardware. Oracle too is eyeing this market.

But Microsoft scoffs at the concept of outside competition. "Our primary competitor is ourselves from our past," says Michael Dix, director for Office branding at Microsoft. "It [Office 2003] is more robust and broader than everything we've done in the past." Most MS users will applaud his first adjective.

The campaign budget far exceeds that for Office XP two years ago - just $30m - and could rise to $200m if the upgrade doesn’t leave the shelves fast enough.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff