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Tech's Eyes Turn Now to Obama, Dems

Barack Obama and the U.S. presidential election
Source: Reuters

Barack Obama soared to victory in the U.S. presidential election Tuesday night with a promise of change. But with the new administration not taking office until Jan. 20, the tech industry has some time to weigh the election's outcome -- and the chances that if change does come, it'll be in its favor.

Net neutrality, patent reform and HB-1 visas have long been pegged as key issues the industry wants to see addressed on Capitol Hill.

But with the financial collapse occurring during the middle of the campaign, it became clear very quickly that the industry also had larger, more immediate problems to worry about -- problems it'll be looking to the next president and the next Congress, now with a wider Democratic majority, to tackle.

"Our audience is interested in more than the next hot Web startup," said John Battelle, program chair for the upcoming Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Battelle said the tech confab had its latest agenda shaped by the larger issues now dominating the industry's concerns.

"If we had not expanded our agenda to include some of the world's most pressing problems like energy, sustainability, the health industry and the financial crisis, we wouldn't have been able to sell out again," he said.

Pointing to the iPhone and other tech gadgets, industry analyst Tim Bajarin said there's no lack of innovative new products, but consumers need to have money and feel more secure about their finances and the economy to keep purchasing them.

"The new administration has to get the economy humming again so people start buying," said Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

[cob:Special_Report]The hope is there might be synergies between the steps the tech industry wants taken to solve its perennial problems -- changes in immigration and broadband policies, for instance -- and the efforts of finding solutions to the larger issues, like the economy and energy self-sufficiency.

Many see tech's efforts to have its perennial issues addressed remaining just as critical under a Democratic administration as it had been under GOP leadership. For Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), those issues are extending the R&D tax credit, reforming patent laws, and changing the way that H-1B visas are granted.

"It doesn't make much difference what the administration is, because what's important today will be important tomorrow," Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, told InternetNews.com.

For many industry insiders, however, addressing the sector's key wants has taken on a new priority, since they believe doing so could help rebuild the economy and make the nation more competitive.

"It's more important than ever that the new Congress and president consider how to improve the short-term and long-term prospects for the U.S. economy and competitiveness in the world economy," Microsoft spokesperson Ginny Terzano said in an e-mail sent to InternetNews.com.

"The U.S. election and the work of the incoming administration and the new Congress will be one of the most important in generations, playing a vital role in setting the right course for U.S. competitiveness, education, workforce readiness and trade," Terzano added.

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