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Dell opens design center in Singapore

Computer maker's facility will focus on display, imaging products, in latest example of tech firms taking high-level tasks offshore.

Dell has opened a facility in Singapore to design products including projectors and TV sets.

The design center, announced Thursday, marks the latest example of U.S. technology companies performing higher-level tasks abroad--a trend that raises concerns about the United States losing its edge in technology.

Dell declined to say how many employees will work at the Singapore center. But the company said it will focus on display and imaging products, and will join four other design centers that Dell has set up in Taiwan, China, India and the United States.

"Singapore offers a robust technology ecosystem, with the right elements in place--a highly skilled, highly educated talent pool that's relevant to our needs; a pro-business environment; sound infrastructure and good connectivity; well-regulated yet flexible financial infrastructure; and sound intellectual property management and protection policies," Dell Chief Executive Kevin Rollins said in a statement.

The Singapore location offers other benefits too, according to Dell. "With Singapore being one of our key regional bases since 1995, we are able to leverage our corporate infrastructure that's already in place," Rollins said. "We can also maintain our competitiveness by being near where we source key technologies used in our displays and imaging products. Being close to our supplier base lets us reap the benefits of streamlined sourcing and distribution, translating into value products at competitive pricing to customers in Singapore as well as in other parts of the world."

Dell has been noted for focusing more on manufacturing efficiency than research and development. Still, the Texas-based company said the team in Singapore joins more than 4,000 engineering professionals at Dell worldwide.

Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Richard declined to say how many design engineers work in the United States.

Dell is hardly the only U.S.-based technology company conducting research or development-type activities abroad. Motorola, Microsoft, IBM and Hewlett-Packard are among those that do so. At the same time, some leading companies in the PC and mobile phone industries hail from Asia, such as Korea-based Samsung.

Given this state of affairs, along with the shift of much software programming work to India especially, some analysts worry about the United States ceding its longstanding dominance in the realm of computer technology.

Asked about whether the new design center represented a blow to U.S. technology leadership, Richard argued that the company has a global perspective. "The Singapore design center and our other design centers in fact are very much part of Dell's strategy to expand our business and expand our business around the world," she said.

Dell has a goal of reaching $80 billion in revenue within three to four years. The company expects 55 percent of the revenue growth to come from international markets.

"We have customers in every part of the world," Richard said. "It makes sense to reach those customers in whatever is the most efficient and cost-effective way."