Microsoft opens mobile R&D lab here

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Microsoft opens mobile R&D lab here


U.S. software maker Microsoft Corp. opened an engineering laboratory in Seoul to build mobile Internet solutions based on its Windows operating system, company officials said yesterday.
The research and development facility, dubbed Mobile Innovation Lab, is expected to employ 30 engineers.

They will collaborate with local phone manufacturers and telephony operators to develop handsets that integrate the mobile versions of Windows with advanced wireless Internet software programs.

Microsoft said that it will invest $30 million in the next three years to support the research activities. The company said it will share the source code of the developed technologies with its local partners, but it declined to detail its plans on managing intellectual property.

"The objective of the mobile innovation lab is first to deliver advanced and customized mobile Internet handsets to allow telephony operators to provide better services, and second, to take what`s developed here and market them to other markets through Microsoft`s sales network worldwide," said Yoo Jae-sung director of Microsoft Korea Inc.`s small and mid-market solutions and partners group.

Microsoft will dispatch 15 engineers from the mobile technology research center at its Seattle headquarters to lead the activities at Seoul`s Mobile Innovation Lab, said Yoo.

The company also will recruit and employ local research talent from Korean software developers and electronic manufacturers on a project-by-project basis.

According to market research group Gartner, Korea`s three largest handset manufacturers, Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Ltd. and Pantech Co., sold an estimated total of 1.52 billion mobile-phones last year, accounting for 24.2 percent of the global market at 6.4 billion units.

Korea also represents one of the world`s highest wireless penetration rates, with seven out of ten people subscribed to mobile-phone services.

Microsoft believes Korea`s advanced mobile telephony industry will provide an ideal test site for the company to develop and deploy its latest technological advancements.

"Our goal with this innovation lab is to help take Korea to the next level in mobile innovation. We are convinced that together, we can develop advanced mobile technologies that will determine the shape of mobile telecommunications in the next few years," said Pieter Knook, senior vice president of the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division and Communications Sector Business at Microsoft, in a statement.

The Korean government has been recently upping its efforts to increase foreign technology investment in the local market. It has lured seven multinational high-tech companies and research institutes to established research facilities here since last year.

Most notably, the International Business Machines Corp. established an engineering laboratory for embedded software and automobile-based computing solutions in June last year, while Hewlett-Packard Co. a research and systems integration center for radio-frequency identification technologies in October.

"The government has been talking with Microsoft over establishing a research and development center in Korea since 2003. We hope that the Mobile Innovation Lab will help advanced the local industry in areas of mobile applications, software and handset designing," said Kang Dae-young, director of the Ministry of Information and Communication`s information and communication technology investment and cooperation bureau. Kang said the ministry doesn`t have immediate plans to financially support Microsoft`s research activities here.


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