Microsoft looking to reshape itself

Microsoft executives are planning a major company reorganisation aimed at resharpening the company's focus on customer service, a move that will bring an executive on long-time leave back into the fold. The reorganisation has been driven by Steve Ballmer, who one analyst says was getting tired of getting yelled at by Microsoft's big customers.'

Microsoft executives are planning a major company reorganisation aimed at resharpening the company's focus on customer service, a move that will bring an executive on long-time leave back into the fold.

After the reorganisation, which could be announced as soon as next month, Microsoft will be pieced into four groups -- consumer, corporate, software development, and knowledge workers. According to published reports, Brad Silverberg has been asked to return to Microsoft and head up the consumer-oriented group.

Silverberg's return would indicate that Microsoft plans to hone in on its Internet message. Silverberg was a key player in the company's development of Windows 95 and the Internet Explorer browser.

The reorganization reportedly has been driven by Steve Ballmer, who was named president of Microsoft last summer and stated then that he wanted to rededicate the company to customer needs.

"(Ballmer) discovered that people did kind of know what customers wanted, that just wasn't making it into their work," said Rob Enderle, vice president of the Giga Information Group Inc., in Santa Clara, California. "He was getting tired of getting yelled at by their big customers."

According to The Seattle Times, which first reported the reorganisation, the knowledge workers group will focus on small businesses, home office workers, and telecommuters; while the developers group will woo Java and Internet programmers. The enterprise group will include Windows 2000 and other server technologies.

"This is a way of focusing the company on the Internet and recognizing the Internet as sort of the electricity that is all over the place," Giga's Enderle said. "Clearly it's one of the major tools to build on. The message will still be Windows-centric, but it will become almost impossible to separate Windows from the Internet. It'll be part of everything Microsoft does."

Microsoft approached Silverberg -- as well as other candidates -- about taking over the company's interactive media group, according to sources. That post was vacated by Pete Higgins, who went on leave Dec. 31, 1998 with the intention of returning to the company in another position.

Silverberg has been on leave from Microsoft since June 1997; however, during that time he has consulted with Microsoft executives on various company matters.

At Microsoft, the official line on the reported reshuffling is that so far, nothing is set in stone.

"The company annually... looks at its organization and evaluates whether it is best structured to meet customers' needs," said Nina Bondarook, a spokeswoman with Microsoft's external public relations agency. "It's too early to speculate what the outcome will be of that analysis."

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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