Barley is a very different character to his predecessor, the genteel, larger-than-life Bertie Wooster-esque Oliver Roll, who left in August to head the software behemoth's marketing operation in Asia Pacific. At five-foot-seven, he is perky and affable and manifestly relishing the challenge.
We are sitting in a hotel bar on the eve of the launch of Microsoft's Tablet PC, a laptop computer that doubles as a screen notepad, like a PDA writ large, but which recognises handwriting. A perfect illustration of Barley's espousal of the humanisation of technology.
"There's a movement back to origins of human expression. The advent of the information age compelled us to type and now we're being encouraged to write again," he says. "It's an evolution, not a revolution," he adds, in one of his lapses into technology industry cliche.
Microsoft has commissioned Aardman Animations to come up with a number of 'emoticons' - scrawlings expressing a range of human emotions in a richer way than : - ) or :- (. "Emoticons bring resonance to e-mails.
With e-mails up until now we have lost the ability to transmit tone, vibrancy and resonance and make communications more human," Barley says.
The marketing strategy for Tablet is concentrated on outdoor media and roadshow demos at airports and railway termini, designed to catch the target audience of working people on the move. "Once people get their hands on one and see how it works they'll love it. We want to create a lust for these things." As if to underline his point, as Barley writes on the Tablet, a fixated waiter comes over enquiring about the device.
Barley has likened his switch across the M4 corridor from his previous employer Oracle to Microsoft to Sol Campbell's defection from Spurs to Arsenal, of whom he is an ardent follower. "You meet a lot of nouveau football fans in this business, but Nick is hardcore and must have been to more than 30 away grounds," notes one long-standing acquaintance.
On securing the job at Microsoft he left immediately, his six-month notice period at Oracle whittled down to one month's gardening leave. The two are bitter rivals in the corporate market, which is a space Microsoft is now aggressively pursuing. As a seasoned corporate marketer, Barley, 46, is clearly a huge asset to Microsoft in this arena.
"I have a good understanding of how to connect with large organisations and build long-term strategic relationships," he says. The company will appeal to the business community with a fresh TV campaign in the new year.
"At Microsoft we are evolving a new brand positioning and purpose, away from the vision of a PC on everyone's desk toward being a visionary company that helps individuals fulfil their potential." Part of his role is to realise Microsoft's aspiration to act and be seen as a "responsible leader".
It is making more investments in CSR, building on relationships with organisations such as the NSPCC and disability charity Leonard Cheshire.
"One of the things I am interested in is the idea of Microsoft as the lifestyle brand from cradle to grave," he proffers. "One of the nice things I like about Sony is when you buy that primary colour tape recorder for your three-year old with the enormous microphone, it has a lovely little sticker on it which says 'My first Sony' and it suggests this is the start of a lifelong journey. I feel exactly the same about peoples' relationship with Microsoft. I can't think of another company that has that kind of connection."
Barley is hamstrung to an extent by Microsoft's global approach to marketing and drive for consistency. But as one of the largest subsidiaries and marketing departments outside the US, he is determined the UK is a key contributor of ideas.
On a local level, he intends to increase one-to-one marketing, and is holding a review of its below-the-line ad account.
"I like simplicity," he says. "I think we make a lot of our messages too complex and I think that's true of the IT industry generally. IT ads in the press for instance are extremely text heavy. I intend to strip down our message and simplify it."
Barley's mission to humanise technology for the masses is genuine. But with 21 years experience purely in the computing industry serving the business community, is he really the man to deliver on this vision?
"He has a very astute bullshit detector," says Clive Armitage, chief executive at Bite Communications. "He susses people out quickly and goes with his gut. But if you know your stuff well, he'll stay loyal.
"Microsoft has a very stable workforce. People stay on and move up the ranks. With Nick they've got someone who hasn't had the corporate brainwashing and will bring completely fresh thinking."
1987-1995: Director, European finance and business systems marketing,
Digital Equipment Co
1995-1996: Director, business strategies, Bull Information Systems
1996-2002: Marketing director, UK and Ireland; vice-president,
2002-present: UK marketing director, Microsoft