That was one of the more interesting morsels served at a press lunch Microsoft held today to introduce the leaders of its small-to-midsize business group, which is having its annual Convegence conference in San Diego this weekend.
Michael Park is vice president for U.S. sales in what Microsoft calls its Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group. Park is also helping fill in on overall U.S. sales, since Bill Veghte returned to the Windows operation.
Park is also selling the Dynamics line of midsize business planning tools, now that he’s free of a non-compete agreement with SAP, where he worked before joining Microsoft in October 2005. Before that he was at Siebel.
What did Park think of the failed attempt by SAP and Microsoft to merge? “I think culturally it would have never worked.”
Also at the lunch was Eduardo Rosini, the group’s vice president of global sales. Rosini joined Microsoft 17 years ago in his native Argentina and worked is way up, serving previously as head of Asia-Pacific sales and before that led European retail and Xbox sales.
Rosini reiterated Steve Ballmer’s recent comments about Vista sales tracking closely with the PC market. “They dynamics of Windows are more related to PC growth than anything else, so as the PC market goes, Windows goes as well,” he said.
I asked which version of Vista their business customers are buying. Investors are awaiting word on this because the higher-priced premium versions would offset the effect of moderate PC sales.
They said Vista Ultimate, the most expensive version, is selling the best so far, perhaps because it appeals to enthusiasts who upgrade sooner than most buyers.
“We are seeing a higher percentage of Ultimate than we thought,” Rosini said, though he cautioned that that may not indicate a long-term trend.
The VPs weren’t too worried about Google’s new online business application suite. Rosini said customers aren’t asking Microsoft for ways to do everything online, they’re asking for reliable and secure systems, he said.
Microsoft has a lot of competitors in software sold as a service but it’s still early days and businesses don’t necessarily want to do everything online, Park said. Microsoft strategy is to give customers options, he said, although development of its online platform still has a ways to go.
“The reality is that may happen 30 years from now or someday but in the immediate future … give it to them where they want it,” Park said.