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Microsoft plans sales force expansion

The software giant will broaden its sales force by adding 450 positions, its largest expansion in a decade, as it tries to better target specific industries.

Microsoft said Monday it plans its largest sales force expansion in a decade by adding 450 positions within the next year.

The software giant said the expansion of its sales force is intended to further its plan to target customers in multiple industries with a range of Microsoft products. Instead of focusing on selling individual products, such as its Windows operating system or Office business applications, Microsoft is slowly shifting to a model of selling a range of products targeted at customers in specific industries, such as financial services.

A management reorganization in April, which resulted in the resignation of President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Belluzzo and divided Microsoft in seven product groups, was the first step in that plan.

On Monday, Microsoft said it is going a step further by creating 12 vertical sales organizations targeting specific customers in financial services, telecommunications, state and local governments, the federal government, education, retail, health care, automotive manufacturing, high-tech manufacturing, oil and gas, media and entertainment, and professional services.

Microsoft also said it is organizing its technical specialists to focus on three business areas: servers, developers, and knowledge workers. The specialists will work with Microsoft's consulting services to foster development of systems on the company's .Net software architecture.

While Microsoft continues to report strong profits, the company missed analysts' estimates when it reported financial results for its fiscal third quarter in April. Part of the reason for the shortfall is a slowdown in Microsoft's core sales of software for personal computers.

To offset a change in the PC market, the software maker is attempting to target specific industries and is expanding into new areas such as gaming, with its Xbox console.

Microsoft is also revamping its software licensing plan. A new licensing plan aimed at businesses, which is intended to make revenue more predictable for Microsoft, takes effect on July 31. But as of last month, two-thirds of Microsoft's largest customers had not signed up for the plan.

And still unclear is how a long-running antitrust case against Microsoft will affect the software maker's business. Closing arguments took place last week, and the judge presiding over the trial is expected to issue a ruling this summer.