BTW, given the rainy weekend in Seattle, here's a little light reading from Steven Sinofsky on what is a Program Manager (PM) at Microsoft. I have great respect for him and his work in the IW business group, and I have seen how he and his group make customer satisfaction a priority in Office. I wanted to call attention to this blog post again as the PM has a close partnership with the development team, sales & marketing and management teams, and provide a "listen and respond" channel for customer feedback and suggestions (which is also a requirement of product managers in SV) in the product lifecycle. As noted, Steven says that the PM is "the advocate for end-users and customers."
I come from Silicon Valley where the Product Manager is the closest thing many companies have to a Microsoft PM. Steven asserts in his comments that there is a closer tie to in the "associate product manager" title in SV. I disagree, having managed product management teams there, that the role is more of the classic product manager and that additional tasks are being added to the associate role, but that is splitting hairs.
The work that he eludes to in our career framework is truly different in many ways from how companies in the Valley think about the role than we do at Microsoft, but there are a greater number of common denominators in MS PMs and product managers than there are differences - but that is my opinion based on my work in smaller, lighter organizations (vs the 60,000+ at MS) where product managers wore several hats filled by multiple roles in MS. And given Chris_Pratley's comment on how there has been an incredible "increasing complexity of solutions" I believe that we will see more and more companies -- especially as they grow -- adding MS PM-type roles in their own organizations to deal with the scope of the project.