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Tailwind blows over Microsoft sales shake-up

Think vertical, not horizontal

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Microsoft has re-organized its US sales force to increase the focus on specific industries while recruiting individuals with specialized knowledge of vertical sectors.

Under a project called Tailwind, Microsoft has reduced the number of sales districts from 17 to 12 whilst enlarging the size of five districts. Microsoft is also recruiting staff with specialized knowledge of specific vertical markets.

Part of Project Tailwind saw Microsoft double the number of staff in the field selling Office to more than 1,000, a move alluded to last month by the vice president for Microsoft's Information Worker product management group Chris Capossela.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told The Register the changes at the district level under Project Tailwind were necessary in order to "achieve an economy of scale in organizing local account teams by industry focus." Microsoft is also "hiring hundreds of experts from their fields" as an investment to help partners in vertical sales, she said.

Microsoft already uses vertical units to help sell to sectors like banking, however Project Tailwind appears to represent a deeper effort to engage with customers.

The new push wraps up all of Microsoft application and operating system software for the desktop and server while addressing all sizes of customers in vertical sectors, including the small and medium businesses markets. Microsoft's senior management last week outlined plans for "Premium" editions of Office and Windows in the Windows Vista "time frame" while executives used the company's world wide partner conference to talk-up Windows bundles for the mid-market.

The changes come at a critical time for the company, with Microsoft expected to use the coming 18 month period to finally launch new versions of Windows, SQL Server, Visual Studio and BizTalk Server.

Directions on Microsoft lead analyst Paul DeGroot said Microsoft is trying to rectify the perception "they don't understand my business" in order to sell more copies of software like Office, which dominates the market for PC-based personal productivity applications.

"The big issue for Microsoft is the long-term knock," DeGroot said.

"They write horizontal stuff. Until now it's never been an issue. Everybody can use Office, Exchange and SQL Server. Now Office is on 90 per cent of desktops, it's really hard to make a significant increase in sales."®

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