Is Small Biz Microsoft's Next Big Thing?

With new software and an army of resellers, Gates & Co., are launching a massive offensive to target 45 million businesses worldwide

Three years ago, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steven A. Ballmer huddled at the Renaissance Paris Hotel with then-sales chief Orlando Ayala and Group Vice-President Jeffrey S. Raikes. The goal: to come up with a big new growth market. And they aimed sky-high. Plotting into the wee hours, the trio hammered out a plan to sell run-the-business applications for small and midsize companies. With 45 million such businesses worldwide, this was perhaps the biggest untapped software market left. To unlock it, Microsoft would need to spend billions acquiring companies and hiring hundreds of new employees.

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