by MichaelF on September 05, 2006 06:01pm

On a recent visit to Thailand I had the opportunity to meet a variety of customers, open source community members, government officials and new Microsoft people.  A great part of my job is the opportunity to understand the state of the software industry in different countries around the world – both in developed and emerging countries.  It’s fascinating to see the patterns of similarities and often surprising to learn about the myriad of country-specific characteristics that influence the evolution and growth of a software industry.  My visit to Thailand was remarkable in both of these areas.  I visited at a time where the government was under some unstable conditions – although the environment is amazingly under control and calm. The state of the Thai software industry is relatively segmented, with some areas quite advanced and some under significant early development.


The role of Microsoft in a country like Thailand is somewhat different than in many large developed countries.  In countries like Thailand, Microsoft participates heavily in the growth and health of the software industry.  Certainly we do this in large countries as well, but it’s much more direct and hands on in countries like Thailand.  Naysayer’s will claim this is so we can just ‘sell more’ to new audiences.  Of course we care about software sales (we’re a commercial software business!) but in these environments we prioritize the condition of the software ecosystem as it’s the basis for any near or future business.  For example, the Microsoft general manager for a country like Thailand (Andrew in the photo below – far right) will spend a good portion of their time working on country-wide initiatives for improved software education, or in cross-vendor forums focusing on improved software security, or in helping the government plan for software infrastructures for future natural disasters (tsunamis, for instance).  What I find interesting, is that many people, particularly in the U.S., don’t often see this side of Microsoft and it is a very important part of our role as a business, community and industry leader to help the entire software ecosystem grow and prosper.


Related to this, one of my trip highlights was a dinner in Bangkok with some of the leading science and technology thinkers in the Thai government around the future of IT in Thailand*.  Below is a photo of (left to right): Dr. Chadamas Tuwasetakul, Assistant to Director, National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC); Dr. Pairash Thajchayapong, Senior Advisor to National Science and Technology Development Agency; me; Dr Thaweesak Koanantakool, Director, NECTEC; Andrew McBean, General Manager, Microsoft Thailand.

 


We had a great discussion about software for children in K-12 classrooms, the benefits and challenges to delivering country-wide computing infrastructure for environments that have numerous IT challenges (such as very few technical support staff).  We also talked about commercial and free software, Microsoft’s position on OSS, standards, interoperability and our future product line – particularly Windows Vista and Office 2007.  It was a great and opinionated discussion and I learned much from Dr. Tuwasetakul, Dr. Thajchayapong, and Dr. Koanantakool, their insight was highly valuable.


The software industry is going through tremendous growth in Thailand.  I feel there is much to be learned from watching these next frontier software ecosystems, to see how they develop their industries in this new era of software economies, how they learn from other economies, countries and trends and most importantly how they create a software legacy that is both prosperous and uniquely Thai.


O’Reilly blogger Allison had an interesting term, technodiversity that I think is a great way of thinking about ecosystem evolution.  I believe strongly that intellectual invention, innovation, and both pragmatic and expressible interoperability are keys to achieving this type of technodiversity.  In an upcoming blog entry I hope to dive more into this area of pragmatic and expressible interoperability to describe why this often fuzzy term ‘interoperability’ is crucial to growing ecosystems.  Warning – expect unusual correlations to trains, newts and other seemingly random but (to be illustrated) relevant examples to the subject.


bill


* To be fair, earlier in the day I spent time with James Clark, long time OSS/XML developer and now part of SIPA (Software Industry Promotion Agency) and the leading OSS promoter in Thailand, and I would include James as one the leading thinkers on software in Thailand as well.