Bill Gates lead a party of senior executives to Washington DC this week to tell politicians that the software industry is now the number one driver of the US economy.
The Microsoft chairman and chief executives of 11 major IT companies on Thursday launched a new report from the Business Software Association that said by next year, the software industry would contribute more to the US economy than any manufacturing industry.
"By next year, we will be the largest industry in the United States for the first time, surpassing automotive," said Carol Bartz, Autodesk's chief executive.
The report claimed that in 1998, the industry employed 806,900 employees, with workers in every state on average earning $68,900 a year. By comparison, other private sector workers earn an average of $29,800 a year.
The BSA predicted that by 2008, some 1.3 million people will work for the software industry.
The economic impact of software together with the fact that high tech companies and trade associations are spending more on campaign contributions and lobbying means the industry has developed a powerful voice in the US capital.
That was demonstrated earlier this week when legislation to limit Year 2000 problem liability was passed in the Senate. That battle for the hearts and minds of the politicians was simplified in the US as one between two powerful lobbying groups ... high tech companies on one side and trial lawyers on the other.
The fact that high tech won the battle if not the war - the US President is still threatening a veto - was a tremendous boost to the industry's agenda.
For the software industry in particular that agenda includes stronger copyright laws to cut down on software piracy. The new BSA report said that billions of dollars were being lost in sales and - of particular interest to the politicians - lost tax revenues.
Joining Gates and Bartz at the BSA press conference were - Bentley Systems chairman Greg Bentley, Corel chief executive Michael Cowpland, FileMaker president Dominique Goupil, Intuit chief executive Bill Harris, Visio chief executive Jeremy Jaech, Lotus chief executive Jeff Papows, Network Associates chief executive William Larson, Novell chief executive Eric Schmidt, Sybase chief executive John Chen, and Symantec chief executive John Thompson.
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