Software Industry by 2000 Will Be Biggest Slice of U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Business Software Alliance released yesterday a report that says by the Year 2000, the software industry will contribute more to the U.S. economy than any manufacturing industry, including automotive, and also will boast a $20 billion surplus, compared with $13 billion in 1997.

The report also states that the industry's 800,000-plus employees earn nearly $70,000 a year compared with other workers in the private sector, who make an average of just less than $30,000.

The report, "Forecasting a Robust Future: An Economic Study of the U.S. Software Industry," was presented at BSA's chief executive officer forum, which featured 12 industry heavyweights, including Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates.

The report also explains that software theft cost the industry more than 100,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in lost wages in 1998 -- numbers that will nearly double by 2008 if nothing is done.

The panel of CEOs discussed a myriad of IT public policy issues -- including copyright protection, "strong" encryption and the Year 2000 -- during an hour-long press conference.

The encryption issue was an especially touchy one with many members of the panel, who implored the government to eliminate export controls so that U.S. companies can discontinue the practice of using foreign companies' encryption products and can begin to use domestic encryption services instead.

"Congress is listening very well to our issues," Microsoft's Gates said. "But on encryption, we were wondering if we weren't articulating the problem. We don't want to wait another year before we get some kind of relief."

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