Executive: Microsoft More Nimble Company

Company's corporate restructuring designed to allow Microsoft Corp. to make decisions more quickly, says top exec.

(Redmond, Wash.) Eight months after announcing a corporate restructuring designed to allow Microsoft Corp. to make decisions more quickly, a top executive insisted Wednesday the technology industry's 800-pound gorilla has become more nimble.

"There's more to be done, no question, but I feel like we're moving and focused in the right way," said Kevin Johnson, who in the restructuring was named co-president of the division that includes Microsoft's Windows operating system, online efforts and server software.

The restructuring came as Microsoft faced criticism about whether the hulking company could move fast enough to beat back the growing threats from younger or smaller companies that offer software as a service over the Internet.

Such offerings, which range from Google Inc.'s free, Web-based e-mail to Inc.'s online business products, could eventually threaten two of Microsoft's most lucrative businesses: Windows and Office business software.

Less than two months after the restructuring, Microsoft announced it was putting much of its muscle behind that Web-based market. In short order, the company began releasing a slew of new, updated and test versions of products under its "Live" online brand. The company says the products are designed to complement, rather than replace, the desktop programs that remain its cash cows.

Its online offerings include tools for finding local businesses and points of interest to checking e-mail and creating a small business Web site. Microsoft also has rushed to market a platform for selling online advertising, which is how companies make money from many online services.

The changes came as Microsoft conceded yet another delay in its new version of Windows, Vista. It will now be released to consumers in January, more than five years after the most recent version, Windows XP, came out.

Johnson points to the swift online effort as the best example of Microsoft's changes since the restructuring. He said the company removed some layers of management, recruited key Microsoft and non-Microsoft employees to the task and made other changes designed to help the company respond more quickly.

"You look at the speed at which we've come out with many of those new innovations and how that's evolved in the last six or seven months, and I think that's a reflection of the spirit of agility and how we're embracing software plus services," Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press during Microsoft's 10th annual CEO Summit at its Redmond headquarters Wednesday.

Johnson concedes there are some drawbacks to quickly releasing a host of new products into the market, although he says he thinks the company is striking the right balance.

For example, some users have been confused by Microsoft's plans to rename certain products that were previously part of its MSN online unit, such as Hotmail and MSN Messenger, with the "Windows Live" moniker. It's also left some questioning what will happen to the old MSN brand, although the company insists it will live on.

Adding to the confusion, Microsoft has even given two separate products the same name. Windows Live Search is both the company's new Internet search engine and a product that lets workers scour their PC, the Internet and corporate networks.

Martin Taylor, a corporate vice president for Windows Live and MSN Marketing, on Wednesday wouldn't directly address whether the Windows Live Search product for workers would get a name change, saying only, "We're finalizing a few things."


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