Microsoft maps out Australian plans

Microsoft maps out Australian plans

Microsoft Australia's new managing director, Paul Houghton, has described the US Department of Justice's recent finding of fact in the long-running antitrust case against the software giant as "a blip on the radar screen".

In his first address to the local media, US recruit Houghton said Microsoft "wants nothing more than to resolve the case . . . so the distraction goes away from customers and employees.

"We think [last week's outcome] is one stop in the long process," he said.

Houghton said it is too early to predict "a remedy" for the case but he personally does not expect Microsoft to be split into separate companies.

"And if the company was to be split, I don't think the market would see any [great] change," he said.

Microsoft Australia will, however, undergo some changes, with Houghton explaining that as the reins pass from his predecessor, Eugenio Beaufrand, to him, the local arm of the company will align itself differently.

"My predecessor spent a lot of time with channel partners to make sure the channel was cost-efficient. There won't be a significant shift in focus but I'll put a lot of energy behind the end customer."

Meanwhile, the recent announcement that Microsoft will begin offering its software, firstly the Office suite, through an application service provider (ASP) model from May or June next year, was last week revealed to be just a small cog in Microsoft's overall plan to become a software services company.

Peter Cray, Microsoft's marketing manager, said the company's long-term vision is to "move to a model where customers buy services rather than product packages".

Betting on the success of the PC had paid off for Microsoft said Cray, but now the multinational will need to compete in the "PC plus" era, where other types of devices become increasingly important and the notion of "digital convergence will really drive us", Cray said.

He predicted that in five to 10 years time Microsoft would deliver software to customers via ASPs, telcos, Internet service providers and small service providers.

"But we will only do that in a world where we have constant connectivity," he said.

Cray said he expects at least 10 or 15 local partners to join Microsoft's ASP program in time for next year's full service launch.

Win2K focus

In the short-term Microsoft Australia will obviously focus on Windows 2000, with Microsoft spending over $1 million on training its local partners and customers, and Cray recommending that Active Directory skills will prove invaluable to resellers.

But Cray also revealed that Microsoft's Australian operations will concentrate on line of business (LOB) application platforms and knowledge management platforms.

Energy in the LOB space will be spent trying to promote Microsoft platforms over Unix and Oracle for e-commerce applications. The focus on knowledge management will centre around dashboard technology and the need to help customers get value out of investments they have already made.

Additionally, Microsoft will concentrate on delivering "online experiences for consumers and businesses", said Cray.

This could potentially involve operating in Australia, though Cray is quick to reassure partners that they will be involved in any decision-making process.

Other Internet initiatives include the promotion of passport technology, Web TV, wireless technology and hotmail schemes.

In related news, Microsoft last week released the final beta version of Windows 2000 to selected customers in the US. According to Cray, this indicates that all is going smoothly to meet the final release date of February 17.

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