July 11, 2005--Microsoft has announced that it will increase its focus on industry specialization, creating software products targeted for small businesses in vertical industries such as manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare.

Under the guidance of more than 200 "industry experts," including doctors, bankers, and former state CIOs, Microsoft is currently developing a number of industry-specific software packages. Currently, the new software targets 15 different industries and 66 vertical markets within those industries.

Upon this announcement at Microsoft's annual worldwide partner conference in Minneapolis this weekend, a number of partners raised concerns about Microsoft's decision to begin selling vertically. However, Microsoft representatives said in a statement that they hope increasing industry focus "will help partners in the small and mid-market develop vertical specializations and expand their business opportunities."

By investing toward developing industry-specific solutions for small business, Microsoft's vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions Sales Strategy, Craig McCollum, hopes to tap into a rapidly growing, under-served market. "Especially in the small and midmarket segments, channel specialization has not been happening to an extent that fully takes advantage of the tremendous growth," he said in a statement.