Keep investing in (our) IT, Microsoft tells EU

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IT should be part of any stimulus package, Microsoft will tell a big audience of European public sector opinion-makers today. We asked the European chairman why Microsoft deserves the business

In Brussels today, around four hundred of the European “elite” will listen to speeches, and shuffle round an exhibition dedicated to Microsoft. The “Innovation Day” – attended by MPs, civil servants and business leaders will show new technology from Microsoft and its partners.

It will also have a fairly clear message: back Microsoft and you will survive the recession.

” This year, everybody feels the economic crisis,” Jan Muehlfeit, chairman of Microsoft Europe, said to eWEEK Europe before the show. “We believe it is important to show our commitment to innovation in Europe.”

The day will include one of the first European outings for Microsoft’s Surface, a touchscreen user interface embedded in a table, but despite the company’s obvious desire to show it off, it will have a pretty low profile, with most of the show given over to Microsoft partners.

There’s a very good reason for this – even if those other innovations don’t sound very thrilling (smartboards and netbooks and a dynamic waste management system). Microsoft’s agenda is to convince EU people that its technology is good for local business, and isn’t just a siphon taking money off to Redmond. “If Microsoft makes one euro in revenue, our partners make eight euros,” said Muehlfeit. “It is indeed a very important ecosystem.”

How important? Well there are 3.2 million people involved, making their own applications and selling services related to Microsoft products. That is 40 percent of European IT employment. It is a figure that Muehlfeit is obviously proud of – but one which might make others feel that a bit more competition could be a good thing.

One of those people, of course, might be Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, who is a keynote speaker on the day, kicking off a day which will cover healthcare, cloud services and online gaming.

“IT has a bigger footprint than the other industries,” said Muehlfeit. “IT enables the other industries.”

Muehlfeit listed some of the ways IT can help other industries succeed and lower their environmental impact, through such things as unified communications and videoconferencing. He seemed particularly interested in healthcare: “Compared with the finance sector, IT is not yet used in a smart way in the health sector,” he said. Chronic disease takes 6.8 percent of the gross domestic product, he pointed out, and suggested that It could make an impact on this, using wireless health monitoring: “We can connect lifestyle with healthcare.”

Patient records could be put “in the cloud” and made available to you wherever you are, he said: “Today, that doesn’t happen even in your own country.” He brushed aside any suggestions that this might be insecure or difficult to fund in tough times, saying it would be worth finding money for this sort of project, because of the impact on GDP if people could be made more healthy: “While there is a tough situation, we need to continue to invest in innovation, as it can save costs and make the EU more productive.”

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