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Microsoft aims for fresh start with Government

Relations with industry, government need improving says Muckleston.

Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston says there is still room for improvement for its engagement with industry and the Government. Last year the G2009 deal between the Government and Microsoft – negotiated every three years to give agencies software discounts on Microsoft products – fell over and Government procurement policy released after that indicated a cooling of relations with the software giant.

Muckleston says he was not privy to the G2009 negotiations but more than 200 agencies individually re-signed with Microsoft in the fallout.

"What we need to be doing and what we are doing right now is thinking about `G2012', for want of a better name.

"We've got two or so years before the whole process comes up for renewal, and we want to make sure that every single one of those Government agencies is able to articulate to us right now what value looks like for them.

"We've heard very loud and clear the frustration that came out of G2009 and I don't think that's something either partner wants to go through again."

Microsoft warned that a cloud was hanging over its Wellington Innovation Centre following the G2009 breakdown. The centre let government agencies use Microsoft software to prototype new IT applications free of charge, and Microsoft included funding for it under the terms of the government-wide software licensing deals.

Muckleston says the centre no longer works on projects with specific agencies. Instead it is working on all-of-government initiatives in the areas of identity integration, cross-agency collaboration and intellectual property reuse across agencies and departments.

The Government's move to shared services and infrastructure makes sense, he says, and larger players such as Microsoft inevitably stand to profit as their economies of scale mean the "cost per computer" will be lower.

The company has traditionally kept quiet on big local issues – such as the Government's ultrafast broadband initiative – but Muckleston says it will become more vocal.

Too much talk around the UFB seems to be centred on whether New Zealand is spending enough compared with Australia's whopping A$43 billion National Broadband Network, he says.

"Let's just get on with it ... and then start to have the discussions about whether it is fast enough or whether we are spending enough money."

Microsoft has traditionally focused on the business space, but New Zealanders can expect it to put more time and money into consumer technology, products and launches – such as the launch of Windows Phone 7 and its Kinect motion sensor for the XBox 360 – and more localised features through its Bing search engine.

Muckleston says he plans to bring in a "more connected" corporate responsibility programme under which Microsoft will partner with three or four of the bigger name charities, and provide technology expertise as well as money.

The company needs to do more to develop a New Zealand brand, he says. "People aren't sure what our brand stands for in the New Zealand context.

"If you look at the likes of Vodafone, it has done a great job of positioning itself as a New Zealand company, even though it's a multinational. There's some lessons we can learn from that."