At the recent Microsoft Innovation day in Brussels, we got an exclusive interview with Neil Holloway, Vice President of Microsoft's international business.
As well as quizzing him about Windows 7 and Microsoft's investment in better search technology, we asked him about the raison d'être of the event and Microsoft's plans for even more R&D in Europe.
But how has Microsoft managed to create such good feeling around Windows 7? "For a while we had some issues about security and which we spent a long time and a lot of money trying to address both in Windows XP. And then we spent a long time making sure Vista was ready to go to market.
"But you're right, Windows 7 seems to be very cool. People are beginning to kind of sniff around to see what we're doing. [Plus] Xbox is going fantastically well. So yeah, there's a feeling of optimism."
Search and mobile
We also quizzed Holloway about Windows Mobile 6.5. Aren't people are really waiting for Windows Mobile 7? "I think 6.5 continues to demonstrate we're in the game," believes Holloway. "There are 1.2 billion phones and about 100 million smart phones and both those members can increase the way keen to get is a high good market share on those devices."
Search is also one of those areas Holloway was keen to talk about. But hasn't Microsoft been talking about improving its search for eons? "[It's a] huge opportunity. I think obviously Google have done a fantastic job and in some places have an amazing market share compared to us," mused Holloway. "[But] all of us that search - we still continue to want more. We're just at the beginning."
"Of all the searches you do, sometimes you still don't get an answer or you don't get the relevant search if you're looking for any context. So if I'm typing Jaguar, is it a car or is it an animal?"
"Semantic search is a growing opportunity… we want more context in terms of search results when you get the initial search. I think some users think that we've reached the end of the opportunity. Getting a good market share is going to take a long time but as you say the opportunity is something very keen on investing in and either through getting key talent we've acquired quite a few people - from say Yahoo - or by buying companies like Powerset."
Holloway also confirmed the Innovation Day is primarily about showing Microsoft's importance to the European economy – there are 250,000 Microsoft partners in the region. "[It's to] ensure that the key policy makers in the European Commission have a full understanding of the Microsoft strategy and the importance of what we're trying to do [for] the industry… we're positive about the future not only for us but for the industry partners."
In other words, the corporation is working to demonstrate to the EU and EC that what it's doing is positive for European industry, rather than uncompetitive.
Massive growth in R&D
Microsoft is also planning huge extra investment in R&D in Europe – particularly in search. We asked Holloway whether Microsoft was still seen as the archetypal American corporation. "You know, I think if you'd asked me that question five years ago I'd say that was true even though we've been in Europe for 25 years.
"We've seen significant increase in R&D. 10 years ago I think we had about 25 people doing R&D. Now we've got 1,800 people in 40 different locations. We're making significant investments such as the search, which we're doing at the moment in Munich. Paris and London."
And Microsoft's message to the EC remains all about the partners. "We've got a quarter of 1 million partners out there and every time we make a dollar they make eight. So yeah, I think you could ask me again in five years time - we can always improve - but I think people clearly [think we're] much more of a European player than they did five years ago."
Like this? Check out Windows Mobile 6.5: all you need to know
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