Microsoft optimistic for region

Microsoft expects sales in the Middle East to return to 20 per cent growth this year as the company prepares to roll out some of its more popular applications to the Web.

Microsoft expects sales in the Middle East to return to 20 per cent growth this year as the company prepares to roll out some of its more popular applications to the Web. Ali Faramawy, the vice president of Microsoft International, said revenue growth in the region dropped about 5 or 6 per cent per cent to 15 per cent last year because of reduced spending on information technology across the Middle East. "When you're talking about growing at 20 per cent gross and then you go to about 15 per cent, that's a big difference," Mr Faramawy said. "The good thing is that we're continuing to grow in double digits, which is fantastic, but the bigger issue is the kind of opportunities that exist in these types of markets."
IDC, a global technology consultancy based in the US, recently released a report that said the world's leading emerging markets were set to head the recovery in global technology spending in the coming years, with the Middle East and Africa at the forefront. Companies in the Middle East and Africa are expected to spend US$49.77 billion (Dh182.82bn) this year, with the Gulf region forecast to contribute about 25 per cent, the report said.
Mr Faramawy forecast Microsoft's sales growth in the region to be at least 20 per cent this year. The US-based software giant has been hit by a wave of competition from "open source" software applications built by volunteer programmers and distributed on the internet by the likes of Google and others. A declining global economy has also impacted the technology sector and major companies such as Intel, Microsoft and IBM all saw sales decline last year.
The expected rise in IT spending was not lost on Microsoft as the company opened its TechEd technical education and networking event yesterday in Dubai. The three-day showcase borrows heavily from other similar ones in the UAE but with an added emphasis on Microsoft products. Sivaramakichenane Somasegar, the senior vice president of Microsoft's developer division, said the company's upcoming product line-up focused on connecting the mobile, desktop and television worlds as well as significantly pushing into developing its software for the web. "We are now starting to make the transition into what it means for you to post things on to the cloud," Mr Somasegar said. "We want to make that as simple as possible."
The "cloud" refers to "cloud computing", the technology industry term used to describe placing data on to a connected network of computer servers that is easily accessible from the internet. Many companies are increasingly adopting "cloud computing" in their IT departments as a way to cut costs and more effectively manage their data. Mr Somasegar said Microsoft would release versions of its Office and Sharepoint application suites for the Web later this year.
"We have media assets and we have online assets but we will continue to be a software company," Mr Somasegar said. @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae

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