Distribution, Sales & Marketing

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We market and distribute our products and services primarily through the following channels: OEM; distributors and resellers; and online.


We distribute software through OEMs that pre-install our software on new PCs, servers, smartphones, and other intelligent devices that they sell to end customers. The largest component of the OEM business is the Windows operating system pre-installed on PCs. OEMs also sell hardware pre-installed with other Microsoft products, including server operating systems and application products and desktop applications such as our Microsoft Office suite. In addition to these products, we also market through OEMs software services such as our Windows Live Essentials suite.

There are two broad categories of OEMs. The largest OEMs, many of which operate globally, are referred to as "Direct OEMs," as our relationship with them is managed through a direct agreement between Microsoft and the manufacturer. We have distribution agreements covering one or more of our products with virtually all of the multinational OEMs, including Acer, ASUSTek, Dell, Fujitsu, HTC, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Lenovo, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and with many regional and local OEMs, including Medion, MSI, and Positivo. The second broad category of OEMs consists of lower-volume PC manufacturers (also called "System Builders"), which source their Microsoft software for pre-installation and local redistribution primarily through the Microsoft distributor channel rather than through a direct agreement or relationship with Microsoft. Some of the distributors in the Microsoft distributor channel are global, such as Ingram Micro and Tech Data, but most operate at a local or regional level.

Distributors and Resellers

Many organizations that license our products and services through enterprise agreements transact directly with us, with sales support from solution integrators, independent software vendors, web agencies, and developers that advise organizations on licensing our products and services ("Enterprise Software Advisors"). Organizations also license our products and services indirectly, primarily through large account resellers ("LARs"), distributors, value-added resellers ("VARs"), OEMs, system builder channels and retailers. Although each type of reselling partner reaches organizations of all sizes, LARs are primarily engaged with large organizations, distributors resell primarily to VARs, and VARs typically reach small-sized and medium-sized organizations. Enterprise Software Advisors typically are also authorized as LARs and operate as resellers for our other licensing programs, such as the Select and Open licensing programs discussed under "Licensing Options" below. Some of our distributors include Ingram Micro and Tech Data, and some of our largest resellers include CDW, Dell, Insight Enterprises, and Software House International. Our Microsoft Dynamics software offerings are licensed to enterprises through a global network of channel partners providing vertical solutions and specialized services. We distribute our retail packaged products primarily through independent non-exclusive distributors, authorized replicators, resellers, and retail outlets. Individual consumers obtain these products primarily through retail outlets, such as Wal-Mart and Dixons. We have a network of field sales representatives and field support personnel that solicits orders from distributors and resellers, and provides product training and sales support.


Although client-based software will continue to be an important part of our business, increasingly we are delivering additional value to customers through cloud-based services. We provide online content and services to consumers through Bing, MSN portals and channels, Microsoft Office Web Apps, Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Live Essentials suite, Windows Phone Marketplace, Xbox LIVE, and Zune Marketplace. We provide content and services to business users through the Microsoft Online Services platform, which includes cloud-based services such as Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, Exchange Online, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Office Communications Online, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, SQL Azure, SharePoint Online, Windows Azure, and Windows Intune. Other services delivered online include our online advertising platform with offerings for advertisers, as well as Microsoft Developer Networks subscription content and updates, periodic product updates, and online technical and practice readiness resources to support our partners in developing and selling our products and solutions.