Microsoft moving into Iraqi market

Entrance to Building 99 on the Microsoft Redmond Campus, which has become more energy efficient over the last year. Microsoft

(CBS/AP) Microsoft has opened a window on Iraq. The software giant said Monday it had appointed a local company to distribute its products in the war-torn country, calling the move a sign of progress for the nation. Presumably Microsoft also hopes to get Iraqis to pay for software they are already using -- according to a recent report Iraq has one of the highest rates of software piracy in the world.

Microsoft's manager of Business Development for Emerging Markets, Rajai S. El-Khadem, said the software giant had chosen the Baghdad-based Legend Lands Co. as its Iraqi partner.

"This is a big step for Microsoft and for Iraq,'' said El-Khadem. "As of today Microsoft will be officially and locally represented in Iraq ... to provide Microsoft licenses, support and services for our clients and resellers.''

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El-Khadem called the Iraqi market a "promising and aggressive'' one that "needs to be served at the same level as all the other countries.'' But he also called on the Iraqi government to approve laws that protect intellectual property rights and usage of software.

Decades of war and U.N. sanctions have created sweeping technology shortages in Iraq, and the government's limited supervision over the sector has overwhelmed the market with illegal software products.

The CEO of Legend Lands Co., Ahmed Izzedien, said his company will provide a wide range of software products that address the needs of the government, public and private sector and home users. The company will also provide support and services through a network of resellers nationwide.

"Things have changed in Iraq in a way that needs to address the major needs such as updating software used by the government ... and to move in parallel with economic development, mainly in the oil sector,'' he said.

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