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New Microsoft R&D centre aims at digital home media

Compression techniques and digital home applications

Microsoft opened a research and development centre in Taiwan that will focus on developing advanced compression technologies for files such as music and movies, as well as home media centre applications, a company executive announced today.

The Windows Media Engineering Center, jointly set up by Microsoft and a publicly funded Taiwanese research institute, aims to work on further developing products for a number of compression technologies.

Applications and chips developed through their joint efforts would go into devices developed by Taiwanese companies for Windows Media Video and Windows Media Audio compression, and different kinds of optical disc standards such as Blu-ray and HD-DVD (High-Density DVD), as well as the Taiwan-developed Forward Versatile Disc (FVD) format.

Microsoft hopes the joint venture with Taiwan's ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) will lead to several different chips to support the FVD format, as well as a few digital cameras and three or four FVD players, said Christopher Short, director of the Microsoft Technology Center in Taipei.

"Working with Microsoft should give FVD a big boost," said Gary Huang, a researcher at ITRI.

Locating the centre in Taiwan should mean faster development times for product makers.

"Local companies don't have to fly to Redmond for support. We shorten the development cycle because we're here," said Short.

The R&D centre will also tune into surround sound, high-resolution formats and ways to move media files more easily among devices throughout the home.

For example, a user in a digital home could click on their PC to play a cartoon in their daughter's room and a movie in their son's room, and the PC could also sync with a spouse's personal digital assistant to download their calendar, so that everyone will know the family schedule, said Short.

Microsoft made a "significant" investment to help fund the research group, along with the capital from the Taiwan government, he said.

Initially, the centre has a staff of six people supported by 50 Microsoft employees in Seattle, Short said.

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