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Ballmer has seen the future, and it’s Danish

Microsoft gees up the channel

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Toronto Steve Ballmer has seen the future, and it’s Danish. At least, he’d like it to be.

It’s not Denmark’s bacon, or its viking-hatted football fans the Microsoft CEO admires, but the Danes’ matchless appetite for Microsoft Business Solutions.

Talking at Microsoft’s World Wide Partner Conference in Toronto, he explained how Denmark consumes more Microsoft business software per head of population than anywhere else in the world.

As the homeland of Navision, the ERP company Microsoft acquired for $1.3bn in 2002, it’s hardly surprising that Denmark is such a keen customer.

“If we were just as successful worldwide as we are in Denmark, then we would be a factor of ten larger than we are now,” Ballmer told the conference.

In other words, a multi-billion dollar business. With fewer than ten per cent of small businesses using CRM or ERP, according to some estimates, the market potential is certainly huge, and Microsoft’s ambition to grab a slice of it is no secret.

But there is still a long way to go. Even Danish enthusiasm wasn’t enough to lift last quarter’s revenue for MBS above $153m.

So, though Ballmer could open his speech by saying that “We have had one of the most fantastic years in Microsoft history,” it’s yet to show up in the financials.

Microsoft hired Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, home of the Maple Leafs ice hockey team, to gee up the 5,500 channel partners who came along into "betting their business on Microsoft".

It has announced some new cash to support the rhetoric - Microsoft has upped its investment in the partner channel from $1.5bn to $1.7bn in fiscal 2005, which will be invested in training and marketing support.

The company announced a raft of marketing initiatives, including an online marketplace for approved software and hardware.

As if further proof of Microsoft’s commitment to the channel were needed, one senior Microsoft executive even had ‘Partners Rule’ tattooed on her arm (in henna - lightweight).

Few people could doubt Microsoft’s ambition in this market. But the small businesses it’s targeting are a cautious bunch, and they don’t show any sign of rushing to make Steve Ballmer’s vision come true any time soon. From Toronto, Denmark seems a long way away. ®

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