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Microsoft sets up tech centre
( 2003-11-04 22:32) (China Daily)

US software giant Microsoft has taken another step in tapping local market potential, with the establishment yesterday in Beijing of its first application development centre.

The Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) under Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) will work to adapt the development results of the latter to meet local demands for Microsoft products and technologies.

"It is a natural extension of MSRA and an important step in our development,'' said Zhang Yaqing, managing director of MSRA and ATC.

ATC will employ 80 people in the first year, but its growth will be very fast, according to Zhang.

He declined to reveal the exact amount of investment capital put into the centre by Microsoft, but he said it would be roughly similar to the amount put into MSRA, in which US headquarters has invested "much more than US$80 million,'' since it was founded in 1998. MSRA has 170 researchers at present.

He added that ATC, besides acting as a major link in the US software firm's research network, will also help its operations in Asia develop products for local markets and transfer technologies to domestic businesses.

In the past five years, MSRA has had more than 700 essays published in leading publications worldwide, and 72 of its technological innovations have been integrated into Microsoft products.

But Zhang believes that the fast economic growth in Asia, especially in China, has been fostering strong demands for innovative software and Microsoft has the wherewithal to help fulfil this demand.

The technology centre will develop applications in the same areas as does MSRA: next-generation multimedia, next-generation software user interfaces, wireless networks, and digital entertainment.

But the focus of the co-operation between ATC and Microsoft China will be on mobile phones and digital media during the initial stage.

The centre will also develop a text-to-speech technology, which enables devices to read text aloud, for Shenzhen-based telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

However, Richard Rashid said a more active involvement in utilizing Microsoft technologies in applications did not mean that ATC will become a commercial organization.

"We are not trying to change the direction of our research to commercial application.''

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