Microsoft to Businesses: Forget IBM

Microsoft will spend $500 million this year alone to spread its latest marketing message called the "People-Ready" business vision. The effort will be used as a backdrop to promote a series of products the Redmond company plans to bring to market over the next year.

Upcoming versions of its Windows Vista operating system, Office 2007, Windows Mobile software, and Microsoft Exchange Server would be promoted. Additionally, the company plans to highlight its offerings in infrastructure software, such as Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that the new initiative was an extension of the company's vision to empower customers through software. Additionally, the company is likely looking to recoup some of the $20 billion it spent developing these products since 2003.

"Today we take this to the next level by showing how these tools now work together in new ways to enhance innovation and drive greater value for business," Ballmer said.

The marketing campaign is in direct response to IBM's recent efforts in the enterprise sector. Ballmer says his company is selling technology via software to increase business productivity, whereas IBM is increasingly turning to a consulting-based model.

"We're talking about making people in business more productive every day. IBM is talking about doing a project," he chided. To further this concept, Ballmer demoed many of the products to come to market over the next year, and showed how they would make employees more efficient.

Microsoft's releases would focus on six areas that it sees as areas of greatest need among its customers.

These include unified communications and collaboration, which the company plans to strengthen through SharePoint Server 2007; enterprise search, to manage customers increasing information management needs; mobile communication, improved in the next version of Exchange Server; business intelligence, giving customers new ways to analyze and use company data to their benefit; customer relationship management; and improvements in the infrastructure products that would help to tie all of Microsoft's solutions in a way that is transparent to the employee.

Microsoft said it was mobilizing nearly 640,000 partners worldwide to support the new initiative.

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