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Software trade groups talk merger

The Software Publishers Association and the Information Industry Association are in talks over a potential merger.

    CHICAGO--The Software Publishers Association and the Information Industry Association trade groups are discussing a merger, CNET News.com has learned.

    After reviewing a draft merger proposal on Sunday, the SPA's board authorized president Ken Wasch to pursue merger talks. Wasch will meet with IIA's board Thursday to discuss a potential merger.

    The SPA is the largest software trade association for what it calls "code and content," generally makers of operating systems, applications, and content. Its members include many of the largest software companies, such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Netscape Communications, and IBM, as well as smaller publishers of consumer and educational software. The SPA has lobbied actively on intellectual property issues, encryption exports, and antipiracy efforts in software, and recently raised antitrust concerns about Microsoft's influence.

    The Information Industry Association is a 30-year-old group that represents online publishers, particularly in the financial industry. Its members include Bloomberg, Reuters, the Nasdaq stock market, Dun & Bradstreet, and Thomson Business Information. It has been active in Washington on privacy and copyright issues

    "Our board believes this is worth exploring, and we have to gather some information. As one board member said, we have to complete our financial and cultural due diligence," Wasch said today. "We want to make sure that both sides feel comfortable under same tent."

    Tom Gibson, interim president of the IIA, declined to comment on discussions with the SPA. Gibson has run the association since former president Ron Dunn departed in July.

    Wasch said he expects a decision on a merger to be reached in 60 days.

    Two years ago, the SPA began a push to add more content-based software firms, including Internet publishers, based on a belief that the once-distinct categories of content and applications are converging. A marriage with the online publishers' group would be consistent with that strategy.