REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 22, 2007 – Microsoft has long been committed to supporting the needs of small businesses with innovative technology and resources to help drive their success. Small businesses are an essential part of local economies across the United States; the Small Business Association says that small businesses are responsible for the creation of 75 percent of all new jobs in the U.S.. There are more than 20 million small and home-based businesses in the U.S., according to IDC, and many of those businesses do not have the tools they need to compete in a world that depends so much on technology, globalization and mobile productivity.
As the market continues to grow, small-business owners are looking for new, affordable ways to get organized, to give their employees the right tools to get the job done and to grow their customer base. With the responsibilities of running a business, many entrepreneurs are simply looking for technology that doesn’t take too much time out of their day, that fits well within their organization and that helps them do more with less.
With the upcoming general-availability release of Microsoft Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office release, small businesses are getting a boost. PressPass spoke with Cindy Bates, general manager of Microsoft’s U.S. Small Business Group, to find out what Microsoft has in store for small businesses with these new products, the upcoming Small Business Summit and Microsoft Across America’s Launch Event series currently touring the U.S.
Cindy Bates, General Manager, U.S. Small Business Group
PressPass: What is Microsoft doing to address the challenges small businesses face?
Bates: We’re truly taking a holistic approach to small businesses, using their feedback to inform our strategy. We remain focused on engaging with customers in a meaningful way, developing the right small-business products to meet their specific needs, and working with our vast partner community to deliver those products in an easy and affordable way.
Again, based on input from small businesses and our research, we think we’re unique in our ability to bring solutions to market that are tailored for small businesses. Never before has Microsoft, or any other company, had so many products geared toward this audience. We’re introducing solutions designed to help small-business owners across almost all aspects of their businesses, like operations, finance, marketing, collaboration with customers, employees and suppliers. These products include Windows Vista Business, Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 and Office Professional 2007, Microsoft Office Accounting Professional and Express 2007, Microsoft Office Live and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2.
We’re also engaging directly with our customers through our Small Business Center Web site. Small businesses can go to www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness to learn how to get more out of their technology, quickly get answers to their questions and find useful information to grow their business. The Web site is customized with the needs of small businesses in mind – with free resources like product demos and trials, technical support, and much more. We also have Small Business + , an extension of the Small Business Center, which is a suite of personalized online resources designed to help small businesses get the most out of their Microsoft software.
Through our Small Business Specialist Community, we’re connecting our customers to thousands of technology specialists located in their neighborhoods who have been trained on the needs of small businesses and what technology is right for them. Our financing offers for small businesses, including volume licensing discounts, make technology easier and more affordable to implement. Finally, we’re helping to protect small businesses from the risks of counterfeit software and better enabling them to protect their software assets with the Software Protection Platform.
PressPass: Why do you think small businesses will benefit from Microsoft Windows Vista Business, Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and Office Small Business 2007?
Bates: It’s an incredibly exciting time for us with the upcoming general availability of Windows Vista Business, Office Professional 2007 and Office Small Business 2007. We believe these solutions will redefine the way small businesses work today and in the future.
Microsoft developed these products with the understanding that for small businesses, success is determined by how efficiently they operate and how effectively they can market their products and services. With the right tools and technologies, companies can realize these goals and achieve equal footing with large companies, extending their reach to customers in markets around the world.
PressPass: What role does Windows Vista Business play?
Bates: For small businesses, Windows Vista Business provides more efficiency, a solid technology foundation, more safety and greater possibilities for connectivity.
For small businesses that have few employees, getting the most out of technology to improve productivity is of utmost importance. Windows Vista Business provides greater efficiency to get tasks done and focus on things that matter most to the business. With a more centralized way to manage customer information, a powerful and simplified search, and new and improved ways to access business information, we think small businesses will be empowered to grow their business and worry less about IT.
Another compelling aspect of Windows Vista Business are the security features designed to give small businesses peace of mind. Small businesses will be able to keep their data and customer information safer and automatically backed-up with less technology support. Windows Vista Business addresses growing security threats and helps protect people’s data in and out of the office for a more secure work environment. On the topic of mobility, we know that almost 50 percent of small businesses have employees who work away from the office several days a week. Windows Vista Business enables small businesses to easily stay connected with their mobile workforce.
PressPass: What about Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and Microsoft Office Small Business 2007?
Bates: Office Professional 2007 and Office Small Business 2007 provide small and home-based businesses with a complete set of productivity and business management software. The products were designed to help entrepreneurs get routine tasks done quickly so they can get on with growing their businesses. More specifically, enhancements were made to help people save time, stay organized and work more effectively with information.
For example, the 2007 Office release introduces a simplified user interface and search capabilities that make it easier to discover and use product features through improved menus. We received feedback from customers asking for certain features and tools that already existed in the product, so we’re making those tools easier to find. Powerful contact management tools enable small businesses to manage customer information and track important communications in one place, allowing them to better respond to customers and track sales processes. We know small businesses need to present a polished and professional image, but don’t necessarily have the budget for dedicated marketing support. New graphics and diagramming capabilities, along with improved publishing tools in Microsoft Office make it easy to produce professional-quality marketing communications and campaigns in-house.
Anyone interested can try the 2007 Office release through a no-charge, downloadable, 60-day trial by visiting Office Online (http://office.microsoft.com).
PressPass: When will Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office products be available for small business customers and where can they go to purchase?
Bates: General availability is January 30. Small-business customers can go to the Small Business Center online www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness to learn more about these products and where they can be obtained.
Press pass: What are your small-business customers saying about the products?
Bates: Those of us at Microsoft are not alone in our enthusiasm for the new Windows Vista and 2007 Office products. We spoke with Philip Teplen, Founding Attorney at Teplen & Associates PLLC, who said, “The remote access features in Windows Vista have changed my life. We connect to a remote Web workspace, which used to be quite buggy and slow. Since we upgraded to Windows Vista, remote access has been flawless, and nothing has changed except for the desktop operating system. Drafting documents is the heart and soul of our business, and the new features of Office Word 2007 make that much easier for us. Making format changes on the fly is easy, and it’s very simple to save and retrieve custom document templates. It lets me do my work without having to spend time figuring out the application.”
And Dr. Benjamin Albano, with Twin Cities Internal Medicine Specialists, said, “The Office 2007 interface is a big improvement, and seems quite intuitive. We can do whatever we want to do with our documents without any real learning curve. Microsoft Windows Vista and Office 2007 have been easy for our staff to learn and use, and our electronic medical records software is running smoothly.”
PressPass: What is Microsoft doing to help small businesses better understand Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office releases?
Bates: To amplify support for the Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office releases, Microsoft Across America is offering free seminars in 59 cities nationwide from now until early March. Microsoft Across America tours the country with technology-equipped trucks and interactive seminars to meet face to face with small-business owners to provide them with the information and community connections they need to make smart technology decisions for their company.
Specialized sessions at the launch events will show attendees how Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office products connect people to information, enable mobile and remote productivity, reduce deployment and support costs, and provide a more secure and compliant desktop platform.
Through the “Connections” hosted small business events, small business owners will learn how using technology can help their businesses run more efficiently with Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office release. These events will offer advice and solutions that can help businesses work efficiently, save time and money, and keep employees and customers satisfied.
For more information and a feature story on the Microsoft Across America Launch Events, visit http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2007/jan07/01-17msacrossamerica.mspx.
PressPass: Microsoft has multiple offerings for small businesses. How should small businesses think about each of these offerings to determine which one is right for their needs?
Bates: Small businesses have a lot to choose from with Windows Vista Business, Microsoft Office Professional 2007, Microsoft Office Small Business 2007, Microsoft Office Live, Microsoft Office Accounting Express, Microsoft Office Accounting Professional, and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2.
All of these products are meant to help small and home-based businesses focus on growing their companies instead of managing their technology infrastructure. The additional functionality and product options really give customers the flexibility to choose which technologies and solutions best meet their individual needs. Small businesses can base their purchases on which of these different solutions help them best achieve their goals.
Microsoft is also breaking down barriers for small businesses to conduct business online with Office Live. At the Basic level, small businesses can develop a Web site and have it hosted under a personalized domain name and track Web site traffic at no cost. Considering there are more than 20 million small businesses in the U.S., but only 49 percent of them have their own Web site, this is a great way to stay ahead of the game.
Also available today, Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2 includes new features that help customers protect vital business data, keep network PCs and servers up-to-date and stay connected from virtually anywhere, anytime – all leading to increased efficiency, cost savings and peace of mind.
PressPass: How else is Microsoft helping small businesses succeed?
Bates: On March 19 to 23, Microsoft will host its second annual Small Business Summit – a free, nationwide event featuring keynotes from successful entrepreneurs, including author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, Julie Clark, CEO of Baby Einstein and the Sloan Brothers, well known advocates and supporters of entrepreneurs. Topics will delve into how small businesses can benefit from Microsoft Windows Vista Business and Office Small Business 2007 and Office Professional 2007 implementation, as well as expert tips on marketing and sales, finance, security and accounting – among the many other challenges that small businesses face on a daily basis. We’ll also have a day devoted to start-ups, recognizing that every year 550,000 new businesses are started within the U.S., according to the Small Business Association. This year, we’ll host Day 1 of the Small Business Summit with in-person events in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Detroit; Charlotte and Redmond. The remaining days will be held via webcast and will also be hosted at 65 CompUSA stores nationwide, providing ample opportunity for small businesses all over the U.S. to attend, whether it’s online or in-person. This year we’re expecting more than 30,000 people to register – more than double from what we saw with last year’s Summit.
Summit registrants also have an opportunity this year to enter our Total Technology Makeover contest by sharing their personal ‘technology need’ story with Microsoft. The grand prize winner will win $100,000 in Dell hardware, Microsoft software, and the technology services of a Microsoft Small Business Specialist.
Small businesses and small business technology partners can learn more and register for the summit at www.sbsummit.com.
PressPass: Do you have any closing thoughts?
Bates: I’m very excited about what we have in store for small businesses with our upcoming product releases, the Microsoft Across America launch events and our second annual Small Business Summit. I have several small-business owners in my extended family and am passionate about the importance of America’s small businesses to our national economy. I am eager to help small businesses start, grow and thrive and I believe that technology can play a fundamental role in this, which is why we’ll continue to actively listen to customer feedback to bring the right solutions and resources to market.