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Microsoft exec: 'When Windows is executing well, Microsoft is in good shape'

So much for the repeated attempts by Microsoft brass to try to keep in check investors' expectations around Windows 7's impact on the market. On September 15, Charles Songhurst, a Microsoft General Manager of Corporate Strategy, couldn't have done more to tout the potential impact of Microsoft's new operating system
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

So much for the repeated attempts by Microsoft brass to try to keep in check investors' expectations around Windows 7's impact on the market.

On September 15, Charles Songhurst, a Microsoft General Manager of Corporate Strategy, couldn't have done more to tout the potential impact of Microsoft's new operating system. Songhurst was bullish not just on Microsoft's prospects, but on those of the larger PC industry's, too, in spite of the Microsoft brass' continued bearishness about the state of the global economy.

Songhurst -- who works closely with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell on charting Microsoft's mergers, acquisitions and strategic investments -- spoke at the Jefferies Annual Technology Confernce on September 15. While he totally sidestepped a number of analyst questions, including ones on Office 2010 and Microsoft's long-range view on server virtualization, he responded with unusual candor (for a Microsoft exec) to many others.

Among Songhurst's sound bites I found interesting: * "When Windows is executing well, Microsoft is in good shape," Songhurst said. He couldn't have been more bullish about Windows 7's prospects in his remarks. He called 7 a "compellingly good product" that has led to "renewed belief in innovation in the Windows franchise." Songhurst added that people tend to underestimate the impacts, both good and bad, from a product release and characterized Vista as a "less good" Windows release.

* Microsoft is getting, on average, $50 per copy for Windows from OEMs. (As my News.com colleague Ina Fried noted, that's not a number Microsoft typically shares.) Songhurst didn't detail how much less netbook makers are paying the Softies per copy (that figure is rumored to be around $15 per copy of XP). But he did say that the average between the pricier SKUs and the lowest end netbook SKUs comes out to about $50. (CFO Liddell recently used $60 as the average price per copy for Windows when explaining why he wasn't worried about the continued impact of netbooks on Microsoft Windows revenues.) Microsoft has found users willing to buy multiple PCs (in the developed world) and first-time PCs in the form of netbooks in the developing one. PC usage is up, too because "being at home on the PC is one of the cheapest activities you can do," he said.

* Microsoft still has yet to push Bing internationally, and could get a search-share boost from doing so, Songhurst said. On the topic of search, he noted that "search isn't as homogeneous" as Microsoft originally thought. Users have different search preferences, he said, and there's a "good chance we could carve out a 10 percent to 20 percent niche just based on differentiation" in terms of how results are displayed and how search is handled.

* Microsoft is planning to use Bing to help Silverlight gain market share. No big surprse to anyone who followed Microsoft's Visual Search unveiling yesterday, but it the new Visual Search requires installation of Silverlight to work. Songhurst said this kind of dependency creates a "consumer-pull sort of approach" for Silverlight.

* Microsoft is targeting a different segment of the hosted-services market than any of its competitors, Songhurst told a conference participant asking about Azure. I'm sure Microsoft's competitors wouldn't agree with Songhurst's contention that Oracle, IBM and Google don't have offerings that compete with Azure. (All do.) And Songhurst claimed "Amazon is more focused on the small-business and consumer segment" of the hosted services market than Microsoft -- another claim I'm not sure I'd call 100 percent accurate....

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