Asia's bright spark shines from the Web

Refreshed from the long Lunar New Year weekend break, I returned to the office this week determined to stay away from blogging about the bleak economic climate and recessionary blues.It wasn't easy.

Refreshed from the long Lunar New Year weekend break, I returned to the office this week determined to stay away from blogging about the bleak economic climate and recessionary blues.

It wasn't easy. Most of the headlines dished out somber news about layoffs after layoffs, and significant financial losses.

Several major tech companies initiated an onslaught of job cuts totaling in the thousands. Some 3,000 from SAP--despite posting healthy results--1,300 from Sun Microsystems, 3,400 from Texas Instruments and 4,500 from STMicro. Even the great Microsoft wasn't spared, as the software giant revealed last week it will for the first time slash some 5,000 jobs after clocking earnings that fell below expectation. And Sony issued warning of its first annual loss in 14 years.

Not a pretty sight in the tech landscape right now.

But amid the doom and gloom, there was one small spark. A new report from ComScore unveiled that Internet usage reached over 1 billion unique visitors worldwide in December. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for some 41.3 percent of that colossal number. China housed the most online users globally, according to the study, accounting for 17.8 percent of unique visitors.

With two of the world's most populous nations residing in Asia, imagine the market potential this region has to offer.

For too long now, Asia has been put on the backburner when tech companies draw up their product roadmaps, choosing too often to omit the region when they roll out new releases. It's rather ironic then that some of these vendors would choose to call these "international" product launches, when Asia-Pacific markets are conspicuously missing in the product's initial release--I suppose they assume the U.S. and EMEA regions represent "the world".

And I guess you can't fault them for thinking so, after all, the U.S. and Europe have been economic superpowers for the last several decades. But, the scene is gradually changing, especially with the emergence of China and India, and smaller market hotspots like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and even Vietnam.

Asia is no longer a region tech companies can afford to ignore, or regard as simply a secondary launch pad for their new products. Any market player that still persists in doing so, should ask itself if it wants to overlook a region that accounts for 41.3 percent of the world's Internet population.

But, of course, neither would Asian economies want to turn their backs on the rest of the world.

The Internet may have leveled the playing field for countries that previously never had a chance in the global marketplace, but economies cannot achieve optimum growth on their own.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton sums it up aptly this week at the World Economic Forum: "This financial crisis proves, as nothing else should or could, the fundamental fact that global interdependence is more important than anything else in the world today. We cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option."

And the first step toward establishing thriving "global interdependence" is for Asia to finally be recognized as a primary market in its own right.

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