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Is Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) becoming cool again? A YouGov BrandIndex poll, reported at the end of last week, notes that the recent tablet-war entrant is enjoying its largest consumer perception surges in years. The poll includes Microsoft, as well as key brands Windows and Bing, which are both in the middle of major advertising campaigns.
Over the past several weeks, the daily rolling YouGov poll -- which tracks brand perception on a positive-to-negative 100 score, with zero representing equilibrium between positive and negative reactions -- has watched Microsoft's brand perception surge from 17 to 25. Tablet owners are even more amped up since the Surface's launch, with their brand perception jumping from 23 to 33.
Windows and Bing, both in the middle of advertising pushes, have risen, though not to the same heights as the company's overall brand. Windows has jumped from 14 to 23, its highest score since the Windows 7 launch. Among tablet users, Windows earns a 30. Bing, which continues to struggle to grab market share from consistent search leader Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , has gained six points, and now has a 16 score, its highest in over two years. The Xbox 360, not mentioned in the latest poll but highlighted at the start of November as one of the previous month's biggest brand-perception gainers, is up to 18 from 12 due to widespread interest in hit game Assassin's Creed III and buzz for the upcoming Halo 4.
Sales reports appear to back up this surge in consumer interest. Microsoft's low-end Surface models with NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA ) Tegra processors sold out weeks ago. That's great news for Microsoft and NVIDIA, if "sold out" means sales in the millions, as we're used to hearing from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) product launches, and not 100,000-200,000, which is barely a drop in the bucket now for an exploding tablet market. My Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz doubts that Microsoft's sales are particularly impressive, noting the announcement's lack of hard data and Microsoft's thin domestic retail-store density. On the other hand, managing expectations with a "hot launch," no matter the final sales tally, will undoubtedly help Microsoft keep interest in its new product high, and the Surface's mouthwatering profit margin can make even a smaller sales tally worthwhile.
Between Microsoft and Google Android tablets, Apple may be losing ground in the mobile-device sector it helped pioneer. Its current growth rate is barely half that of the broader tablet market. Don't worry too much about Apple, though. The company's latest YouGov BrandIndex score sits at 33 -- well ahead of Microsoft, and continuing to lead rival Samsung, which only briefly surpassed Apple earlier this year during the tumult of their patent lawsuit.
Can Microsoft continue to make progress on its mobile beachhead, or will consumers reject the radical updates of Windows 8? The Fool's top tech analysts are dedicated to answering these and other questions in our exclusive premium research service for Microsoft shareholders (and would-be shareholders). We're staying on top of Microsoft's latest moves with in-depth analysis and detailed reviews of the company's initiatives. A full year's worth of regular updates on Redmond's quest for mobile greatness awaits you when you subscribe. Click here to sign up now.