Microsoft has taken another step in tapping local market potential, with the establishment recently of its first application development centre in Beijing — the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) under Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) — which will work to adapt the development results of the MSRA to meet local demands for Microsoft products and technologies.

The ATC will employ 80 people in the first year, but its growth is expected to be swift.

"It is a natural extension of MSRA and an important step in our development," said Zhang Yaqing, managing director of the MSRA and the ATC. Zhang did not reveal the exact amount of investment capital injected into the center 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 also added that the ATC, in addition to acting as a key link in the firm's research network, will also help its operations in Asia develop products for local markets and transfer technologies to domestic businesses.

The technology centre will develop applications in the same areas as the MSRA: next-generation multimedia, next-generation software user interfaces, wireless networks, and digital entertainment, however the focus of the co-operation between the ATC and Microsoft China will be on mobile phones and digital media during the initial stage. The center 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.

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