Microsoft yesterday published a page entitled: "Confessions of a Mac to PC convert", which detailed the experience of a freelance writer who switched from Mac to Windows XP.
"Yes, it's true. I like the Microsoft Windows XP operating system enough to change my whole computing world around," she proclaimed. "There's a much greater choice of portable computers and features, for less money, on the Windows platform."
Microsoft's piece also compares AppleWorks to Microsoft Office XP – with Apple's solution "paling in comparison", the report claims.
However, online reporters spotted that the image used in the piece, purporting to be that of the author, was in fact taken from a stock-photo library.
Microsoft told Cnet that its switch story was "true", but admitted the tale was written by a freelance writer. Apple's campaign stories are chosen from among real-life stories from real people submitted freely to the company.
Associated Press later revealed that the author was Velerie Mallinson, an employee of one of Microsoft's PR firms - Wes Rataushk and Associates. The Associated Press identified the author using personal data hidden within the published documents.
Despite the growing questions regarding the report's veracity, Microsoft spokeswoman Charmaine Gravning insisted Mallinson was "an actual customer".
Microsoft has now withdrawn the page from its servers, although it's still available within Internet search engine Google's cache.
Microsoft also told Cnet that it "regrets its action", and "did the right thing" in removing the page. It has "no plans for an ad campaign featuring Mac to PC converts", the company promised.
The decision to pull the story may have been to guard against potential legal pressure, although Apple sources have not commented on this. Rules exist to protect companies against certain kinds of comparative advertising from competitors.
For example, Directive 97/55/EC of the European Parliament Consumer Protection rules, altered October 6 1997, section six states that "conditions" should be established for such advertising. Such conditions exist to: "Determine which practices relating to comparative advertising may distort competition, be detrimental to competitors and have an adverse effect on consumer choice."
Microsoft’s Switch stunt follows several months of strained relations between it and Apple concerning Office v.X.
Just days before Macworld Expo New York, Microsoft accused Apple of not marketing Mac OS X hard enough. Microsoft complained it had not achieved the sales it expected for Office v.X. Since then, both companies have launched co-marketing efforts to convince Mac user's to purchase the Office suite.
However, many Mac users complain that Office v.X is too expensive, saying that's the reason they haven't yet invested in Microsoft's tool.