Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says he intends to build search research centres in London, Munich and on the outskirts of Paris so as to be closer to customers and to attract the best staff.
Ballmer made the announcement during an event in Paris today, (2 October). However, he declined to say how much the company will spend on the new search centres, only that it will recruit several hundred engineers to work in them.
That will boost significantly the number of researchers the company employs in Europe. Today it has 2,000 research staff in 40 offices across 19 of the European Union member states, said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International.
That makes it the company's largest concentration of researchers outside the US, narrowly ahead of China, where Microsoft opened its first international search technology centre over two years ago.
The company already has some search development activities in Europe, following its acquisitions of Norwegian enterprise search company Fast Search And Transfer for US$1.2 billion in January, and of comparison shopping service Ciao for $486 million in August.
Since Microsoft abandoned a plan to acquire Yahoo for around $45 billion to boost its share of the search advertising market, it has been looking for other ways to attract more users to its search sites.
Its strategies include smaller acquisitions, investing in technology research and even paying users to visit its sites, through programs such Live Search cashback or this week's new launch, a customer loyalty program called SearchPerks.
Christine Lagarde, French Minister for the Economy, Industry and Employment, also spoke at the event. She said the company would benefit from tax breaks of between 30 and 50 percent on its R&D investments in France.
"The tax credit is nice," Ballmer said, but Microsoft would have invested in Europe even without it.
"We're investing so we can deliver to European consumers the best search experience we know how," he said.
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