Microsoft courts govts after strategy shift

Microsoft has been creating a public sector organisation charged with engaging and influencing governments' technology buying...

Microsoft has been creating a public sector organisation charged with engaging and influencing governments' technology buying decisions and has begun appointing regional and national chief technology officers to head its efforts.

It broke out the public sector as one of its key business verticals early this year, and has ramped up investment in education, training and community projects.

In Europe, where antitrust authorities have taken a tougher stance against Microsoft, the company has sharpened its focus on the public sector.

Microsoft will create a portal for governments to provision technology from itself and its partners, and is teaming with Accenture to develop software and services packages for European governments in areas such as e-government and public safety.

"In the public sector we have to be consistent, predictable and a good corporate citizen," said Pete Hayes, Microsoft's vice president of the public sector in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Analysts agreed the makeover is necessary if Microsoft wants to find future success in the crucial public sector market, which is being increasingly wooed by Linux providers. If Microsoft can change the way it is viewed, from a self-interested corporate giant, to a local as well as a global provider that gives back to the communities where it operates, it has a better chance of protecting its business, they said.

Given the antitrust suits, the rising profile of Linux as a desktop option and new public sector opportunities presented by emerging markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America, Microsoft saw that it needed to take on a community leadership role, said Eric Woods, government practice director at the research firm Ovum.

"It makes good business sense. The government is the biggest single client in any country," Woods said.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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