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Microsoft Hardware - The China Connection
Jimmy Hu, Managing Director, Microsoft Asia Center for Hardware
June 17, 2009


This year, the Microsoft Asia Center for Hardware (MACH) will celebrate its fifth anniversary - truly an important occasion. This team in Southern China has become an important task force for hardware innovation and product development worldwide. Supporting video game console (Xbox) and accessories, portable media player (Zune) and PC peripheral devices (mice, keyboards and web cameras, etc.), MACH undertakes a large percentage of all the projects in Microsoft's hardware R&D system. In other words, the knowledge and hard work of numerous Chinese engineers has been incorporated into many Microsoft hardware products sold around the world.

What makes me proud is that the extraordinary efforts we have made in innovation are recognized by our customers. More and more people are beginning to realize that Microsoft, in addition to software and services, also has a “hard” side. Whether in China or in many other countries, cutting-edge technologies, seamless experiences between software and hardware, and ergonomic design, have all become synonymous with Microsoft hardware products. There are a few ”anecdotes" about Microsoft hardware and the Chinese R&D team.

First, Microsoft is actually a pioneer and veteran in the hardware (especially PC peripheral devices) industry. This year, the Microsoft hardware team will celebrate its 26th birthday. In 1983, Microsoft rolled out its first mouse, less than two years after IBM introduced the first PC. So, it was obviously not because of its success in the software market that Microsoft began to pay attention to and invest in hardware products. Instead, the company has been committed to hardware products that amplify software applications.

Second, in the last two decades, Microsoft has had dozens of major inventions in computer input device technologies. "To help individual and corporate customers worldwide realize their potential" is not only the guiding principle for Microsoft software and services units, but it’s also the motto for our hardware team. For the last two decades and more, the Microsoft hardware unit has been committed to persistent innovation, has created richer and more exciting customer experiences, and has witnessed one glorious achievement after another. For instance, the Microsoft mouse traveled to outer space with astronauts (1993); Microsoft was the first hardware maker to add a wheel in the design of the mouse (1995); the producer of the world's first optical mouse (1999) and; the first "keyboard-mouse bundle" using Bluetooth technology (2002). Just a few months ago, we introduced products using the latest BlueTrack™ technology that can be used on top of textures on which previous generations of mice could not function.

Third, it takes a strong and high performing team to do a great job. The MACH team is not large – there are no more than 300 people in total including full-time employees, contracted vendor employees and support staff. However, our scope of responsibility is quite extensive, ranging from R&D and design to engineering test and manufacturing management. These areas encompass the R&D of core technology, product function definition and industrial design, plastic tooling development, functional testing, reliability verification and quality assurance. I have always believed that you should stick to the philosophy of having a "small team" with start-up entrepreneurship spirit - even within a large company - and to try your best to learn from globally distributed peer teams, and then succeed.

Fourth, how many people know that today 100% of Microsoft hardware products are made in China? This is actually part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Microsoft and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China to further strengthen cooperation (Phase II) in the software industry. Under this MoU, Microsoft will source hardware products worth over US$ 700 million each year from Chinese companies. Today, we are accountable for the quality of Microsoft hardware produced by dozens of factories in China, the Xboxes and LifeCam cameras used by households around the world, and Microsoft keyboards and mice purchased by companies globally.

Fifth, most of the employees at MACH are Chinese, including myself – I was born in Shanghai. But we also have about 25% employees who are foreigners from countries including U.S.A, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries. As a result, it is quite common for us to hear various different languages in office area – just like a miniature version of the United Nations. Regardless of our skin color or nationality, we all address one fundamental question: how can we create value for customers by utilizing Microsoft's leading hardware technology? I am sure we will have the opportunity in the future to do even more.

- Dr. Jimmy Hu

Dr. Jimmy Hu is the Managing Director of Microsoft Asia Center for Hardware (MACH). Dr. Hu joined Microsoft in Redmond in 2000 as the Engineering Manager of Hardware Reliability and Component Engineering. He moved to Shenzhen in February 2004 to set up the MACH organization. Dr. Hu received a B.S. degree and an MS degree from Shanghai Jiao-Tong University in 1982 and 1985; and received a PhD degree from the University of Maryland in 1989. Dr. Hu holds 14+ U.S. and international patents for electronics products and qualification methods. He was the Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Reliability, and an Editorial Board Member of Journal of the Institute of Environmental Sciences from 1993-1998. Dr. Jimmy Hu is a recipient of Asian American Corporate Achievements Award and two Henry Ford Technology Awards. Before joining Microsoft, Dr. Hu worked for the Ford Motor Company in Michigan for eight years as a Senior Technical Specialist and Engineering Manager of Computer-aided Design for automotive electronics.

Article republished from ARD’s corporate blog

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