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Microsoft Eyes SMB Market in Partner Survey

A Microsoft-sponsored report found that SMBs could represent an opportunity for future sales of IT software and services, despite the current economic downturn.

A Microsoft-sponsored report on the small to medium business (SMB) market found that SMBs could represent an opportunity for future sales of IT software and services, despite the current economic downturn. The report is based on the opinions of Microsoft's SMB partners in six countries, who were polled in February.

Still, the backdrop to the "2009 Microsoft SMB Insight Report," published on Wednesday, is quite grim. Nearly half (45 percent) of Microsoft's small business partners predicted that SMBs would spend less for IT purchases in 2009.

The study's respondents predicted how SMBs would cut costs during the current economic downturn, including staff cuts (67 percent) and "reducing IT costs" (64 percent). However, 22 percent of the partner respondents also indicated that "investing in IT" could be an SMB strategy to weather the economic storm.

SMBs have few staff available to handle IT concerns, even though they expect IT to "help manage costs and increase productivity," according to the report's analysis. If SMBs do spend on IT technology as a cost-cutting measure, they likely will choose virtualization (25 percent) or IT consolidation (25 percent) solutions, according to Microsoft's partners polled in the study.

The prospect of using Software as a Service (SaaS) to cut costs was thought to be a viable strategy for SMBs by just 10 percent of Microsoft's partner respondents. The partners said that 34 percent of their customers were currently using some form of SaaS.

Unified communications was predicted by Microsoft's partners to be the top productivity tool that SMBs will want in the future. Survey respondents also predicted a demand for CRM or ERP solutions, Web hosting solutions, content management systems and productivity suites. The top Microsoft Software plus Services offering of interest to SMBs will be Silverlight, the respondents predicted, followed by Office Communications Online, Microsoft Office Live, CRM Online, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online.

Microsoft's study was conducted by the TNS market research firm, which polled 603 Microsoft Small Business Specialist partner organizations located in Brazil, Canada, France, India, the United Kingdom and United States.

The "2009 Microsoft SMB Insight Report" can be downloaded here (Word file) for free.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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