Microsoft targets manufacturers with new products

Microsoft targeted high technology manufacturers with new software at a Silicon Valley forum Thursday.

Software giant Microsoft is focusing on selling to global technology manufacturers with a software suite it promoted at a Silicon Valley forum on Thursday.

Microsoft showed off 2007 versions of its Office software suite for business functions, SQL Server database management system, Office SharePoint Server program for project collaboration and other products at its first-ever Global High Tech Summit in California.

Microsoft hopes to grab a piece of a growing market for IT spending by technology manufacturers next year. Fifty-nine percent of high-tech manufacturers surveyed by AMR Research Inc. said they planned to increase their IT spending in 2007, averaging a 4.1 percent increase. An earlier survey about 2006 plans had shown only 42 percent planned to increase their spending, and they said they would boost it by an average of just 3.2 percent.

Companies have already invested in technology to automate manufacturing processes, but now they are investing to be able to adjust production to changes in demand, said Eric Austvold, research director at AMR, in Boston.

"They want to know how you create an agile supply network that ramps up a product to volume (production) quickly," Austvold said. The quicker a company gets a product to market, the more units it can sell.

Microsoft is targeting product development, supply chain management, customer relationship management and operational performance, said Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, to about 400 participants at the daylong forum.

Microprocessor maker Advanced Micro Devices uses a variety of Windows-based software in its chip fabrication plants and will upgrade to the new Vista operating system when it becomes available next year, said Tom Sonderman, director of automated precision manufacturing technology for AMD.

"Once we get Vista and get into 64-bit computing, you begin to raise the bar on the things we can do," said Sonderman. "There is an ongoing desire for us to have more computing power in the fab."

Also at the event, Microsoft and Intel jointly proposed an open, interoperable industry standard for document sharing based on the Office Open XML formats. The two companies presented the proposal to RosettaNet, a technology standards group. The Microsoft-Intel standard conflicts with one promoted by Adobe Systems.

"They pushed Adobe aside with this announcement," said AMR's Austvold. "Adobe has been doing this already with a proprietary standard. This announcement trumps that and says, 'We (Microsoft) have got a standard we think is more open,' [although] I think that's debatable."

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