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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT

Business: The Company File

Microsoft reboots

The software leader faces intense Internet competition

Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, is worried about the Internet revolution, and in order to keep the edge the company is on the verge of announcing a dramatic corporate shake-up.

The restructuring is designed to focus Bill Gates' empire more closely on its customers, according to the Seattle Times newspaper.

Microsoft will group itself around four new business divisions:

  • consumers
  • corporate customers
  • home office and telecommuters
  • developers and programmers.

The company is currently organised along technology lines, such as Windows, interactive media and programming platforms.

The company, based in Redmond, Washington state, has confirmed a strategic overhaul is under way but has given few details.

[ image: Steve Ballmer, set to lead restructure]
Steve Ballmer, set to lead restructure
"As usual, the company is looking at the organisation to ensure that it is mapping to the most important customer opportunities," said a Microsoft spokeswoman. She said an announcement could be made in the next several weeks with many details yet to be hammered out.

However, some reports speculate that an announcement may come as early as this week.

New company president Steve Ballmer is believed to be leading the restructuring process.

Windows setback

The newspaper also says that the next version of its Windows program would not now see one universal package for consumers and business as planned.

The launch of Windows 2000, set for February next year, would involve both consumer and a corporate versions as has been the case in previous upgrades, it is reported.

Silverberg return?

Also said to be part of the revitalised business plan is Brad Silverberg, the man who oversaw the upgrades of Microsoft's Windows and Dos programs for most of the 1990s before being pushed into the background in 1997.

He is being tipped to take over the Windows 2000 project. Significantly, he was also the one who pushed the company to develop its own Internet browser and other net software earlier this decade.

Microsoft was slow to realise the Internet's potential in the early 1990s, allowing rivals like Netscape to establish a market presence at its expense.

The spokeswoman said the company "has been seeking the right opportunity" for Mr Silverberg.

Microsoft already has a history of regular corporate reorganisation every couple of years. The most recent overhaul was announced a year ago, when developers who work on Internet Explorer browser were integrated with the team working on the Windows operating system.

Microsoft shares were up almost 1.5% in early Monday trade.

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