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Microsoft Plans Center in China

Microsoft Corp. is opening an international research facility in Beijing.

The research center is the third for the company outside its Redmond headquarters. Earlier sites were opened in San Francisco and Cambridge, England.

The new center, which will begin operations in January, will conduct advanced, long-term research in speech recognition and other computer interface enhancements. Kai-Fu Lee, who joined Microsoft in July, will be its managing director. He is an internationally recognized expert in speech recognition, multimedia, and Internet technologies.

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Microsoft will use the center's findings throughout its product line, but recognizes China as one of the world's fastest-growing computer markets that also has unique problems.

Lee said the complexity of the Chinese language, which contains more than 5,000 distinct symbols, greatly inhibits computer usage. Using speech recognition and other new input devices might lessen the problem, he said.

Microsoft will tap into Beijing's vast intellectual talent pool and will form partnerships with the city's educational institutions, Lee said. These include Tsinghua University and Peking University, and computer-related institutes at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"An indigenous facility is particularly appropriate," Lee said, "because researchers in China can better understand the requirements of the Chinese user, and build technologies that make PC and software usage more pervasive during, not after, the rapid expansion of the Chinese market."

In other Microsoft news Thursday:

  • Microsoft said it has bought Internet advertising company LinkExchange Inc. and will make it part of the products and services it offers on MSN network.

    Microsoft did not disclose how much it paid for LinkExchange, a San Francisco company founded two years ago that now has 100 employees. However, The Wall Street Journal said it was a stock transaction valued at about $250 million, citing unidentified people familiar with the deal.

    LinkExchange delivers services to help businesses promote and improve their Web sites and use electronic commerce. Its flagship product, Banner Network, is an advertising network of more than 400,000 Web sites that reaches more than 21 million online consumers.

    Members of the LinkExchange network will be able to advertise across the MSN family of Web sites, such as the Expedia travel service and CarPoint vehicle buying service.

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