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Microsoft looks to China for researchers

The company looks for talent in four areas: speech recognition, digital pen, panoramic pictures and multimedia compression for wireless.

Microsoft is on the lookout for research talent in China to focus on four core future technologies: speech recognition and synthesis, digital pen, panoramic pictures, and multimedia compression for wireless communications networks.

Over the next two years, the company will intensify its study of these areas with help from Asian educational institutions such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Sydney, Tokyo University, Taiwan's Tsinghua University and Harbin Institute of Technology in China.

The software giant's research center in Beijing, founded in 1998, employs 150 full-time engineers. The team is set to expand to 200 people by 2003, Microsoft Research Asia Managing Director Zhang Ya-Qin said.

"The Beijing setup is the fastest growing (setup) in terms of head count," Zhang said, "compared with the remaining two facilities in the U.S. and the U.K., which already have a combined strength of about 450 researchers."

By scaling up its research operations in China, Microsoft hopes to tap into the country's huge knowledge pool.

The Chinese lab focuses on speech recognition and information processing technologies in Asian languages, such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In addition, the center engages in generic research work in the areas of intelligent search and browsing, 3D face modeling and image rendering, among others.

Expenditure at the Beijing center has topped $80 million to date, Zhang said, adding that more than 24 projects have become part of Microsoft's array of commercial software for both the Asian and global market.

Besides teaming up with academia, Microsoft has forged partnerships with Chinese companies Shanghai Alliance Investment, Beijing Centergate Technology and Stone Group to develop business applications for the Asia-Pacific region.

CNETAsia's Irene Tham reported from Singapore.