IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 1st May 2005

It’s a bit like buses: you wait ages for a CEO from the Wintel alliance to show up and then suddenly you have two at once. OK, it’s not exactly like buses, and Steve Ballmer and Craig Barrett weren’t in Dubai at exactly the same time, but even so, it is good to see the region attract two such high profile IT leaders in such a comparatively short space of time.

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 1, 2005

Waiting for Wintel|~||~||~|It’s a bit like buses: you wait ages for a CEO from the Wintel alliance to show up and then suddenly you have two at once. OK, it’s not exactly like buses, and Steve Ballmer and Craig Barrett weren’t in Dubai at exactly the same time, but even so, it is good to see the region attract two such high profile IT leaders in such a comparatively short space of time. Microsoft head honcho Ballmer was in Dubai to attend Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum. His visit followed hot on the heels of Intel CEO Barrett’s whistle-stop tour of the region last month (see IT Weekly 2- 8 April 2005). What do these two visits tell us about the region’s IT market? Well, fairly obviously, it tells us that there’s money in it, CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies tend to be busy people and don’t decide to visit a region unless they feel it is worth their while to do so. It is not just having a couple of the big bosses that shows us that the region is being taken seriously. Last week Intel announced that it is to host the first-ever Intel Developer Forum, its key technology event for hardware and software developers, in the region. “Following hard on the heels of our CEO Craig Barrett’s visit to the region in March this announcement underscores Intel’s recognition of the existing and potential importance of the Middle East, Turkey and Africa region in the company’s overall plans,” Aysegul Ildeniz, Intel’s regional director, said in a statement announcing the forum, which is to be held in Cairo in May. The key word in that statement is probably “potential”. Ballmer also highlighted the potential growth in the region’s market, at a speech he gave at the conclusion of the Government Leaders Forum. “The region now has nearly 20 million people using the Internet regularly and the numbers are growing nearly twice as fast as that number is growing in the rest of the world,” he claimed. Which tells us something else about the region’s IT market: there’s still room for growth in it, which in turn means customers are to be won or lost here. For those of us who have spent any length of time here in the Middle East this is hardly surprising, it’s certainly not going to make front-page news, but it is worth reflecting on all the same. Why should two of the most senior executives in the IT industry decide to take time out of their schedules to come to the Middle East? Because they don’t want their competitors to get a foothold here may well be one answer. Intel is facing increasing competition from rival AMD globally and here in the region (see story page four for more on their rivalry). What better way to win over potential customers than a visit from the big boss? Microsoft for its part is seeing customers globally, especially public sector customers, flirt with the idea of adopting the open source operating system Linux. What better way to convince your big government customers that they don’t want to go for Linux than to hold a forum for those customers to come together and hear your message? Does this mean that we don’t want to have these people over? Of course not. Intel and Microsoft (and AMD, HP, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and any other company you care to name) are important players and the stronger their representation here the better. Microsoft for instance, is currently looking at ways it can improve the levels of service it offers customers here in the Middle East: and it should be applauded for doing so. The question here is who’s going to be the next high-profile name to visit these shores? We wait with bated breath. ||**||

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