Steve Ballmer, the CEO of software giant Microsoft, loves to hit the buyer's emotional touchpoints.
Back in 2000, European Union governments signed the Lisbon Agenda, which set out a ten year plan to become the world's most competitive trading block. IT took centre stage as an enabling technology in both the public and private sectors.
Not much to argue with there. But since then, Ballmer thinks Europe has taken a wrong turn, especially in its public sector purchasing, which favours the use of open source software.
In October, Ballmer chose the Microsoft European Partner Summit in Barcelona to launch his latest assault against the open source software movement. This time, the arguments were macro- rather than micro-economic.
At the Summit, research organisation IDC released a report on the Economic Impact of the IT Sector in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). This predicted that, on current growth trends, the IT industry will create 2.1 million new jobs and $160 billion in new tax revenues in Europe by 2008.
IDC reported that software's contribution to these jobs and taxes is disproportionately large for its market share: software makes up around 20% of total IT spending, but generates over half of all IT tax revenues and jobs.
Microsoft, which commissioned the study, was singled out for special attention. About a third of software-related jobs stem from the Microsoft ‘ecosystem' of partners, service providers and associated product developers. For every dollar of Microsoft's European revenue, another $7.50 was generated by other companies in that ecosystem.
Ballmer seized on the findings, deducing that commercial software brings vastly wider economic benefits than open source alternatives.
"People need to understand not just the technical advantages of our products but the economic arguments of commercial software," he said, dismissing European politicians who argue that open source brings unique economic benefits to a country. "Microsoft software and other commercial software really create jobs. If you want to have a software industry, people have to be able to charge for their software."
Similar figures for the impact of open source software were not broken out by IDC raising questions about Ballmer's analysis.