The ageing champ ain't as fast on his feet as he was a decade or so back, with many former admirers noting that Microsoft these days 'floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly' - to misquote the great Muhammad Ali.

With a number of lean, fast-footed young contenders coming up fast throught the rankings - Google, Yahoo! and Linux among them - the flabby champ has hurled itself into an intensive corporate fitness regime.

The thirty-year-old software bruiser on Wednesday announced plans to split into three major units - Platform Products and Services, Business, and Entertainment and Devices.

Each will be led by a senior executive, job-titled president, with responsibility for creating a streamlined structure that reflects a sense of internal urgency - qualities notably absent from the titan's recent performance.

Currently Microsoft's core business is the sale of elderly, obese and fickle software that undergoes a facelift every three years or so. Google and others, on the other hand, have embraced the internet as a medium for services that evolve more quickly to meet new customer needs.

Admits ceo Steve Ballmer: "We're not the only guy who's going to try to deliver software that has a service-based component. We need to get there aggressively and quickly."

He describes the restructuring as "part of driving software-based services in competition with anybody else who thinks they're going to use that strategy to get ahead in the marketplace."

Jointly heading the new Platform Products and Services division (embracing Windows operating sytems and MSN) are Jim Allchin and Kevin Johnson; Jeff Raikes will run the Business division (Office and other business software); while Robbie Bach, father of the Xbox, takes the helm of Entertainment and Devices (video games and mobile telephony).

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff