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Microsoft exec: Challenging times play to our strengths

Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop says the software giant is trying to get the message out that it can help its customers save money in tough times.

With a tough economic climate figuring to put a crimp on IT spending, Microsoft is already working on honing a message that it can help businesses save money.

In an interview Friday, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop said that companies are certainly re-evaluating their tech spending projects, but tried to make the case that Microsoft stands to fare better than most.

"Relative to Microsoft's general approach of making all technology, all software very affordable...that plays very well at these times," Elop said. "Who knows what lies ahead, but nonetheless, we've got some pretty good messages."

Stephen Elop

Microsoft has been working on getting those messages ready in a hurry. Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner sent an e-mail to Microsoft's sales force Wednesday night highlighting a dozen or so things the company can do to help customers save money.

The things on the list aren't big surprises--unified communications to reduce travel costs, virtualization to save on server costs, as well as Microsoft's many licensing and financing options.

"It is the case that we are very focused and getting even more focused on having a conversation with our customers around value," Elop said.

But while Microsoft has long grown sales by offering a lower-cost option than software rivals, it now finds others, including Google, using those same arguments against core products like Windows and Office.

Elop reminded me that it's not his first time managing through tough times.

"I've been through a pretty significant economic downturn in the early part of this century--boy that sounds old--when I was at Macromedia," he said. At the time, he said he told his troops that Macromedia could lead through the tough times and come through it stronger at the other end. "I think at Microsoft we can do that even more so."