Microsoft Taps Lees To Lead Concerted Windows Server Marketing Push

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Changes keep rippling in Microsoft's Windows Server System effort.

Andy Lees, a corporate vice president, has been quietly tapped to spearhead what the company hopes will be a more coherent and coordinated marketing and branding push around its various Windows Server offerings. The move was made last month, a company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

Rationalizing the marketing and branding of this product line is no small task. Even company insiders have difficulty remembering all 16 members of the WSS family. According to Microsoft's Web site the Windows Server System (WSS) family includes the Windows Server 2003 operating system itself plus BizTalk, Commerce Server, Exchange Server, Host Integration Server, ISA Server, Live Communications Server and others.

Adding to the confusion, some of the listed offerings, including SharePoint Portal Server and Content Management Server, actually reside outside the server organization per se. (See story.)

Lees will head up the branding push across the entire WSS family, consolidating all product marketing. "The goal is presumably to better integrate the WSS story and [go-to-markets] and not just have a loose patchwork of different products," said a source familiar with the plans.

Up till now, the individual product teams controlled their own budgets and the coordination of WSS messages "was somewhat of an afterthought," he noted. "Making this a hard-line reporting, instead of an overlay, should hopefully help make the marketing messages more consistent."

The fact that Microsoft has acknowledged it plans a new Windows server release before Longhorn probably compounds the complexity of Lees' task, observers said. This is especially true now that Windows client development has forked off from analogous server work, they noted.

Lees' title - corporate vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Partners - is unchanged, but his responsibilities have shifted. He now reports to Senior Vice President Eric Rudder; Lees previously reported to Kevin Johnson, group vice president Worldwide Sales, Marketing and Services Group, the spokeswoman said. See Lee's bio.

This move emanates from broad changes Microsoft made late last year when Rudder was put in charge of servers and tools.

One solution provider said he felt Microsoft's Office System marketing game plan, formally launched with Office 2003 last October, will be a good template for a renewed WSS push. Microsoft started touting the whole Windows Server System brand at the offical Windows Server 2003 debut last April.

One long-time Microsoft analyst who requested anonymity, is not sure Microsoft should follow the Office System model, however. "The whole Office and Windows Server System [message] I think is confusing. Which system does Exchange belong to? I am not sure that the Office System launch was all that impressive either," he noted.

But nearly everyone agrees there is room for improvement on the server marketing side, especially since the perception is that IBM Software has out-marketed Microsoft in e-business servers. In discussing the demise of the "Discovery" suite,

Eric Swift, director of product management for Microsoft's e-business servers, told CRN that Microsoft would rely on Windows Server System marketing to relay its message.

Last week Ted Kummert, newly named corporate vice president of E-business Servers reiterated that message.

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