Market is vital for Microsoft

With Microsoft Business Solutions experiencing 18% licence growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it is not surprising that Courtois sees FDs and accountants as one of his company’s main targets in the future.

‘It’s the place to be for Microsoft,’ Courtois told Accountancy Age. ‘In EMEA, we are growing at 18% in terms of licences. That?s a very healthy growth in this particular market.’

The small and medium business application software market will be one of the most keenly contested sectors over the coming years, and Microsoft has clearly recognised this.

‘We are committed as a company and have invested about $2bn (£1bn) in sales and marketing alone to grow the market,’ says Courtois. A huge amount has also been invested in research and development.

It is this seemingly bottomless pit of available cash which puts MBS in such an enviable position in the financial software market, and has led to never ending speculation about Microsoft entering the higher-end market through acquisition.

German-based software giant SAP has continually been linked as a potential target for the Redmond giant, but that has now been categorically ruled out by Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.

Instead, Microsoft continues to grow through acquiring ‘new’ customers, which has so far landed the company around 4,000 accounts – 600 new customers have joined the company in the last year alone.

It is the fragmented nature of the accounting, financial and business software market that allows Courtois to enjoy such an impressive growth rate. Both the UK and France have around 800 different software providers providing the same type of product.

‘There is still a flurry of applications,’ says Courtois. ‘I think in the UK there is something like 800 solutions. And this is the same in any country. And you have a lot of one-off, or very small, installations.’

But future growth will not be easy, as Courtois concedes the business software space can be extremely conservative, making it difficult to tempt people away from what they know.

‘The key common thread is that every seven or ten years they change their ERP systems. When you talk about the CFOs or even the business owners of small businesses in this market, when the accounting is working okay, they are not in a rush to change it,’ he says.

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