Microsoft heralds market renaissance
The use of operating systems in an increasing array of mobile and embedded devices is putting pressure on the OEM division of the world’s biggest software vendor to keep up with its channel.
Steve Guggenheimer is a man the PC manufacturing fraternity has got to know incredibly well during the last couple of years. But as the corporate VP of Microsoft’s OEM division — a unit responsible for providing the very software licences that empower all manner of hardware devices — you wouldn’t expect anything less.
Given Microsoft’s dominant position in both the operating system and office software sectors, you might think Guggenheimer has one of the cushiest jobs in the industry. After all, with 89 million PCs sold globally last quarter, the vast majority of them loaded with its software, you could hardly say business was slow.
Yet the task of ensuring the thousands of local and global manufacturers that consume its software remain happy is not an easy one, especially when you consider that Guggenheimer is in charge of managing relationships that are no longer confined to the assembly of desktop PCs. Mobile devices, servers, mobile phones, even TVs — Microsoft develops operating systems that expose it to ‘system builders’ of all types and all sizes.
Maintaining focus on a business that has become so expansive might sound like an impossible job, but Guggenheimer argues that the degree of convergence taking place is actually simplifying matters. “It’s interesting,” he says, “six or seven years ago multinationals actually ran [their different] businesses independently, so phones were a completely separate area to PCs, for example. If you look at most of the big partners they are actually trying to do more to connect those scenarios. If you take a Toshiba, a Samsung or an LG, their phone and their PC divisions are now underneath the same person. And that actually makes it easier to have the left-right conversation.”
That said, Microsoft has had to adapt to this trend by integrating its team to operate and align with the way its partners are functioning. Gone are the days when it could work with a large partner in silos.
“The next hot topic is TV and when you start to weave that into the fabric as well you really do have to have a much more integrated approach with the multinationals,” he says.
Irrespective of the device onto which its software is loaded, Guggenheimer insists the vendor measures itself by its ability to enable the partner ecosystem to deliver reliable solutions for their customers. “We have to make sure that as the hardware portfolio continues to broaden, we help our partners deliver solutions that make the most of that breadth to deliver solutions that provide end-users with a great experience,” he explains.
“As hardware proliferates you have the opportunity to deliver great experiences, but you also have the opportunity to have lots of devices that don’t work well together. Our opportunity is to work with our partners to make sure they can build solutions that are good for the end-users and which help their own brands.”
Although the Middle East might not be considered a hotbed for local PC assembly, the ongoing growth of the PC space here represents a “phenomenal opportunity” for the wider industry, insists Guggenheimer.
“If you look globally, it is a faster growing market than some of the developed countries, so people see a lot of opportunity here and as a result you see a lot of investment from our partners in this region,” he says. “There has never been a better time for our hardware partners in this industry. Not because the market has gotten easier or because it is simpler in any way but just because of the diversity of what is going on and the opportunity for continued advancements in the solution set.”