Microsoft has launched Australia.NET, a new .Net industry cluster that will serve as an umbrella group for its corresponding state underlings.Australia.NET will act as a national repository, with its data made up from the other state-led clusters, said Microsoft\u2019s director of developer and platform strategy, Norbert Haehnel. It will record all current and completed projects, .NET specialists and member lists."Australia.NET is a consolidation of the matrix of .Net clusters," Haehnel said. "We\u2019re aiming to create an uber cluster under which all the other state-led clusters can operate and share knowledge."Other state .NET clusters include Victoria, Northern Territory, Queensland, Canberra and a soon-to-be-announced Sydney group.Haehnel said Microsoft was in the final stages of negotiation with the New South Wales State Government for the formation of the Sydney.NET group, a process that has been ongoing for the past 12 months but was "95 percent in the bag."Haehnel said financial assistance was provided by state governments for each respective cluster to provide venue, catering and marketing costs."Government assistance is important, but at the end of the day if you have people who are passionate and dedicate time to set the meetings up, the only expenses you have are vendor hire and marketing," he said.Haehnal said support and feedback from the Victoria.NET group in the past year had been overwhelmingly positive. "Victoria.NET has accumulated over 300 members since forming three years ago, and in the past year alone has secured more than A$400 million [US$298 million] worth of government grants," he said.However, Haehnal expects those numbers to be dwarfed once Sydney finalizes its .NET cluster."We expect to see Sydney exceed 300 members in the first six to 12 months," he said. "NSW is the biggest economy in Australia, and without the Sydney cluster, our industry will not really be representative of the overall Australian .NET picture."-Mitchell Bingemann, Computerworld Today (Australia)This article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page.\u00a0For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in. Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.