At a launch in Brussels on Thursday, the chairman of the newly formed ESA (European Software Association, not to be confused with the European Space Agency), Jeremy Roche, said the group would aim to overcome the "fragmentation" of Europes software industry. The ESA will aim to promote the interests of European software companies at the level of EU (European Union) government, lobbying the European Commission and the European Parliament, the ESA said.
Other members include Frances Business Objects, the UKs Coda Group (with Roche as its CEO), Finlands F-Secure and the Netherlands LogicaCMG.
The ESA joins an alphabet soup of other industry associations dealing with European IT issues—among them Europe-based organizations such as EICTA (European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association), NESSI (Networked European Software & Services Initiative) and BASDA (Business Application Software Developers Association), and globally oriented groups with significant European operations, such as the BSA (Business Software Alliance) and CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association).
Some of these groups, such as EICTA and the BSA, have taken an active lobbying role in recent controversies involving European law—most visibly, the drama around a failed attempt by the Commission to pass software-patent regulation. EICTA and the BSA both promoted the legislation, which critics said would have introduced a system of use only to the biggest companies in the industry. The ESA said it would aim to work with existing groups, rather than compete with them.
The ESA has already set up a first working group on public policy, designed to lobby EU legislators. Areas of interest will include open-source software, privacy, and helping small and medium-sized software companies get better access to venture capital for research and development, said a spokeswoman.
One of the groups aims will be to give European companies a better ability to compete against the dominance of U.S. multinationals, particularly in desktop software, Roche said. However, the group is open to non-European companies with a significant base in Europe, and that includes Microsoft. At the Brussels launch, Roche denied the group was a "Trojan horse" for Microsofts interests.
The ESA also has close ties to the Commission, with the head of the DG (Directorate General) Information Society, Jesús Villasante, playing a key role in setting up the body. The group will work with the Commission on its i2010 initiative for developing the EUs IT sector and adapting the regulatory framework around technology convergence.
Roche sidestepped questions about what exactly the ESAs position would be on divisive issues such as software patents, saying the issues would be discussed in forthcoming working groups. The ESA hopes to play an educational role for software companies on the implications of complex issues such as patent law, as well as advising EU governmental bodies on the interests of the software industry.
The ESA said it will represent the views of all software companies, both large and small, but recently Europes software industry has been sharply divided between the interests of the biggest players and smaller organizations. In the software patents drama, for instance, both sides claimed to have the support of ISVs and particularly small and medium-sized software companies.
A prominent European campaigner against software patents was skeptical that the ESA would present the point of view of smaller firms, given its membership.
"Its ridiculous that they claim to represent European medium-sized companies," said Florian Mueller, whose NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign was key in organizing efforts against the Commissions software-patent directive. "Microsoft is formally, and SAP practically headquartered in the U.S., and the last time I checked, neither of the two had shrunk to mid-size."