Their gospel is Windows and Windows NT, software operating environments that control how personal computers run software.
Mr. Henrich said software developers are often very interested Microsoft's message.
"It gives them an opportunity to stand out," he said. "If you can be the first to adopt technology, it can be a competitive advantage to them."
This classic form of business-to-business marketing seeks to make Microsoft operating environments attractive to computer users by making sure the latestsoftware applications run on today's Windows and Windows NT, and the forthcoming Chicago and Cairo.
The more than 50 evangelists-some software engineers, others with business backgrounds-work one-to-one with major software vendors.
But Windows is so dominant on the desktop that few must be convinced to write for it.
"We'd do more marketing if we had to," said Mr. Henrich, director of the Microsoft Developer Relations Group. "The reality of the marketplace is that you can't ignore Windows."
Mr. Gates, delivering the keynote address at Windows World last month, wants to make sure, however, they don't become complacent. "My challenge to the evangelists is this: There should be no application that's not available on Windows. We're going to be there in a couple of years."
Windows NT, aimed at major enterprises, has rougher going against competing software languages such as Unix. Overall, Microsoft's outreach aims to make it as easy as possible for software engineers to write for Microsoft platforms.
In its March reorganization, Microsoft moved its developer relation units into a new Developer Division under Senior VP Roger Heinen, with Cameron Myrhvold as marketing director.
At Atlanta's twin trade shows, Windows World and Comdex/Spring, Mr. Henrich and crew combed the hall to identify the rising stars, adding them to the roster of key players who draw Microsoft's attention.
The evangelists shared the Microsoft developers booth with some 50 companies whose programs run on a Microsoft platform. At a question station in the booth, they fielded queries on the fine points of how Windows-including its upcoming version, called Chicago, set for release later this year-and Windows NT work.
Also in the booth was a station for the Microsoft Development Network, a broader program that sells technical information, most often now on CD-ROM, to the hundreds of thousands of software developers who make their living writing for Windows or Windows NT.
In Microsoft lingo, the evangelists are part of a "one-to-one" effort, while the Microsoft Development Network is a "one-to-many" program, a single source sending information to many interested software developers. For the Microsoft Development Network, trade shows provide a chance to demonstrate to prospective subscribers what their $495 a year investment will get them: seven CD-ROMs per quarter of technical data, software development kits, system software and an every-other-monthly newspaper.
"Face-to-face contact is the best way to sell our product," said Keith Szot, Microsoft product manager.
For the evangelists, however, trade show activity is just the tip of the iceberg. The real work takes place on Microsoft Corp.'s campus in Redmond, Wash., where 50 to 100 times a year software engineers come for developer conferences, Mr. Henrich said.
The evangelists have two permanent encampments outside Redmond, one in New York to work with the publishing industry and the other in Foster City, Calif., where Darby Williams as ambassador heads a five-member team at Microsoft's "Silicon Valley Embassy."
The 2-year-old Silicon Valley effort puts Microsoft in a region with established software developers, smaller entrepreneurial developers, universities and venture capitalists.
The embassy cultivates new software companies.
"Lots of products move to market leadership fairly quickly in this industry," Mr. Williams said. "You have to make sure companies know in the formative stages the opportunities to take advantage of new technology from Microsoft."