Norbert Haehnel, director of developer and platform strategy at Microsoft Australia, said the Bracks government had provided $80,000 of seed funding to a consortium of nine companies, including Microsoft. The funding is to establish the .NET cluster providing knowledge and resources, including marketing materials to Victorian ISVs. “We've got other programs in other states, like South Australia's innovation centre, but that's very much government-related. This is the first program we've done in Australia really targeting ISVs,” Haehnel said.
He said Microsoft would provide at least another $80,000 to fund the .NET consortium of Dimension Data, Avanade, Monash .NET, Expert IS, Stanski Consulting, Intel, MYOB and Gartner. The companies have differing levels of involvement and any number of members could eventually be included, according to Haehnel.
“It will help the local software industry,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure the .NET platform is used when vendors develop software.” While Haehnel could not say how many ISVs there were in Victoria, he noted that there were at least 9000 in Australia.
Craig Foster, business development executive at assets-based consultancy Avanade, said the .NET cluster would help drive growth in Web services, an area Avanade saw as having huge potential. “There are obvious business benefits from being connected to the Web, right into the supply chain,” he said. Foster believes Victoria could lift exports of IT services by at least one percent to $5.6 million. In Victoria, IT services exports earn $112 million in revenue, 20 percent of the $560 million total.
Victoria already has a Java cluster, he said, but a .NET cluster harnessing Microsoft's ubiquity and customer base would have obvious benefits. “There are only two games in town...and Avanade already has experience in its own right, in developing .NET solutions for offshore purposes,” Foster said.
Victoria's communication technology minister, Marsha Thomson, travelled to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to sign the agreement creating the cluster. “This type of collaboration is essential for Victorian companies wanting to export their products and services and win a larger share of global business,” Thomson said. S
She said that funding for the Victoria .NET Cluster would establish the cluster, set up a Website and email capability, establish a think-tank and market Victorian .NET Web service companies overseas.
“Software developed on the .NET platform is already having a major impact on business to business computing. For example, software can assist companies with different computer systems to track products across the supply chain,” she said.
According to Thomson, the Victorian government had been working in close collaboration with Microsoft in developing the cluster. It's to be funded under the state's Next Wave program and follows support for similar Victorian clusters for the computer game, photonics and microelectronics sectors.
“With this kind of support, Victorian IT companies can be confident the cluster will create many opportunities both in Australian and overseas,” Thomson said. While in the US, she would also be meeting HP, Intel, Sun and Oracle executives to promote IT investment in Victoria.