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Gates Inaugurates Bucharest Center

Microsoft chairman in Romania to help open up new technical support center that will emply 600 to provide support to European customers, particularly in France and Germany.

(Bucharest, Romania) Microsoft chairman Bill Gates inaugurated a technical support center in Bucharest on Thursday, saying he was confident that Romania's recent accession to the European Union would boost foreign investment and the country's IT industry.

"This center is very important for us. It will help our customers in Europe resolve complex problems," Gates said. "We are expecting to continue to invest in Romania. ... We collaborated well with the government and our partners."

Gates also launched the new Vista operating system, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 in Romania, saying that many Romanian specialists, including those working for a local company acquired by Microsoft, had worked to develop them. Microsoft bought GeCAD, which makes antivirus and mail server software, in 2003 for an undisclosed amount.

The support center in Bucharest is expected to employ up to 600 local specialists and is to provide assistance to customers in Europe, particularly in France and Germany.

President Traian Basescu said that while the country has changed its laws in recent years to fight computer piracy, many Romanians were introduced to Microsoft and computers in the early 1990s by using pirated software as they had no access to the original software.

"A bad thing, piracy, became in the end an investment in friendship toward Microsoft and Bill Gates, an investment in educating the young generation in Romania which created the Romanians' friendship with the computer," said Basescu.

He praised Gates for his support of charities worldwide, saying he hoped Romanian companies would follow his example and become more socially responsible.

"We see charitable acts here, too, but they are mostly based on mercy" and not on the idea of returning part of the wealth to help society, Basescu said.

Premier Calin Popescu Tariceanu praised the opening of the Microsoft support center, saying it would boost the local IT sector and help Romania move faster into the computer age.

Tariceanu said that half of the business IT figure of about euro1 billion (US$1.2 billion) in Romania represents exports.

"I think this is the future for Romania's economy and less the classical industrial activities," he said.

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