Microsoft has shifted six executives to Asia, a move viewed as a bid to bolster sagging regional sales. Vice-president for sales and marketing Chris Atkinson takes over a position vacated when Mark Phibbs left to become general manager of the Hong Kong operation. Five other appointments cover sales, marketing and partner relations. Sales in the region fell 9 per cent in the quarter to June 30, compared with the same period last year, from US$777 million to US$704 million. Globally, sales grew 10 per cent to US$7.25 billion in the same period. Spokeswoman Bridget Yau said, however, the appointments were not directly related to the sales decline, but with expanding staff in a region that was becoming more important to the company. 'I think it's more about the potential. I think every part of the world, not just Asia, is affected by the economy,' Ms Yau said. 'If you are looking six months beyond or a year beyond, the potential is there.' Gartner software analyst Louisa Liu said she saw the shuffle a result of the recently announced drop in sales, as well as a concerted effort by the company to improve its standing in the Asian software market. At a time when the Asian software market was still expanding and other vendors reporting increased sales, Microsoft's sales should not be dropping, Ms Liu said. 'This is not the right result because the [Asia Pacific] region should be the revenue growing region,' she said. Microsoft's Windows operating system, Office software and Internet Explorer browser can be found on more than 90 per cent of the world's desktops. But in some Asian markets the company faces an uphill battle ensuring it receives licence fees for its software. Ms Yau said most of the new executives would likely be based in Hong Kong. Mr Atkinson was previously vice-president and project manager for Microsoft's .Net enterprise server products. His responsibilities include co-ordinating regional marketing and sales as well as liaising with the developer community and overseeing the MSN Internet business here. Oliver Roll, formerly with Microsoft in Britain, has been appointed general manager of marketing for the region. Vahe Torossian is the general manager for the small and medium business group. Natasha Kwan will soon join as general manager for customer and partner loyalty. Tit Meng Ang is director of the enterprise partner group, and Geoff Lawrie is general manager for strategic development. Ms Liu said Microsoft was not alone in shifting more sales and marketing muscle to the Asian region; Oracle and other vendors have done so recently. Microsoft spokesman Olivier Richard said the company believed Asian markets would outpace other regions in information technology spending growth, with Korea, India and China among the most promising. Microsoft does not break out its sales figures by country, but it said recently that sales grew 30 per cent in the mainland market for the entire fiscal year which ended on June 30. Sales of its Office suite grew by 57 per cent in the southern part of the China, helped in part by the 8,000 licences bought by the Guangdong government. Company officials declined to give details on Hong Kong sales. However, in terms of software, the mainland remains a developing market where anywhere from 80 to 90 per cent of the copies of Microsoft software used are not licensed. 'There's no real cash from the potentially large Chinese market,' Ms Liu said. Other recent shifts in executive staffing at Microsoft Asia include the appointment of Mark Phibbs in Hong Kong late last year and Tang Jun as president and general manager of the mainland division in March.