DURBAN: Microsoft, the IT giant, is elevating South Africa into the lead group of countries for new product releases like Windows 8 and Office 365, reflecting the growing importance of this market and Africa as a whole.

"We actually think it's important to bring tier one, globally powerful computing experience to the African continent," Fred Baumhardt, chief technology officer for Microsoft, told News24.

He added that the company had closed gaps in product availability in recent years to ensure that South African consumers had the same level of access to Microsoft products as those in more developed countries.

"Over the last four or five years, we've gone through a very strong priority to increase South Africa on the map of Microsoft," said Baumhardt, adding that it was now "in the top 20 or so countries in the world" for the company.

The culture at Microsoft is changing, explained Anthony Doherty, Windows Phone product manager, with the creation of an internal group called the Channel Consumer Group.

"The focus of the Consumer Channels Group," he said, "is to drive a consistent sales and marketing execution in all markets so that we become more appealing to the consumer and we target the consumer in the right way."

He went on to outline how this Group was dedicated to getting the company's message to the consumer, but "not in an enterprise way, which is our historical legacy."

Data sourced from news24; additional content by Warc staff