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Microsoft names new sales chief

The software giant taps 11-year company veteran Kevin Johnson to head up its worldwide sales organization.

Microsoft on Tuesday appointed an insider to head up its worldwide sales organization.

Kevin Johnson, an 11-year Microsoft veteran who has led the company's

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North and Latin America sales team, will become group vice president of Microsoft's worldwide sales, marketing and services. Johnson replaces Orlando Ayala, who earlier this month was appointed to lead Microsoft's worldwide small and midmarket solutions and partners division.

Johnson assumes his new responsibilities immediately, a Microsoft representative said. Because Johnson already ran the "Americas group, he really is expanding his responsibilities," the representative added. Ayala has already made the transition to his new role.

With the appointment, Johnson fills one of Microsoft's most critical executive posts. He will oversee a group that communicates with customers, partners and dealers, analysts say.

Microsoft's decision to move Ayala from his high-profile position to head the small- and medium-business group took some analysts by surprise. But Ayala's move is part of the company's strategy to bolster its push into the small and midsize business market.

"Microsoft has significantly increased the amount of resources it is putting into the small-business market," said Mark Romanowski, a senior vice president with AMC, a New York-based technology services company that works with the software giant.

In his new role, Ayala will be responsible for creating a sales organization for distributing small and midsize market tools acquired with the Great Plains Software and Navision acquisitions and establishing footholds for new products such as Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) software and Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager.