Tech giants woo India developers in Web battle

Tech giants woo India developers in Web battle

Like shirts and shoes, software is a commodity. However, unlike suppliers of many goods made around the world, software suppliers do not have to label where their products have been manufactured.

This in turn has courted an environment, for example in India, where more than 10 per cent of the world's software programmers work for some of the industry's lowest wages.

While Australian independent software developer, Bill Tinker does not know of any associates interested in working India, he does believe it makes sense for large vendors to implement 'economies of scale'.

"If you can manage the language and cultural issues and produce a product [software] more cheaply in Asia, then of course business will jump at it.

"I doubt anybody would be able to tell if their copy of Microsoft Word had been written by Americans or Indians. It's not like suppliers have to put labels on the software like Nike does with its boots telling you where they were made."

But in a tussle to dominate the emerging industry for Internet-based services, industry giants Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are doling out incentives to woo programmers, including Indian programmers, worldwide.

In an environment where about 70 per cent of India's software programmers are developers, the image of lowly-paid, repressed workers - as per other industries that contract work to less developed countries - may be turning.

The creativity of developers helps popularise standards, and demand for code-generating tools rises as more developers adopt a standard.

Therefore, for Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, which are pushing rival Web services standards, they have been lining up day-long seminars and months-long competitions, laced with entertainment.

Wooing programmers and their employers in Bangalore, India's southern software centre, involves blending serious mental challenges with fun.

In the past few weeks, Microsoft, Sun and chipmaker Intel have all held seminars for Indian developers.

Sun's 'Tech Days' saw 1000 paid attendees, the Intel Developers Forum 700 and Microsoft's VisualStudio tool show drew 7500.

Techie seminars are turning into increasingly glitzy affairs, with huge screens, music and lights fit for rock shows.

"It's 99 per cent serious, but we also have popcorn and candy and bands playing," Sun spokeswoman Aparna Devi Pratap said of the company's annual developer show.

Incentives from the software companies are also good: Sun's include up to 60 per cent discounts on hardware for developers, while Microsoft offers software at a fraction of market cost.

Underlining the importance of the industry, Microsoft senior marketing manager Daniel Ingitaraj says the number of programmers in India is expected this year to equal the 500,000 to 550,000 in the US.

Ingitaraj said Microsoft also wooed Indian developers this year with a competition to make faster, more reliable software. Academic winners got a free trip to Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, while professionals won digital cameras.

The huge number of programmers is one reason for the low wages.

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