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Microsoft Israel is confident its presence is being felt at the software development giant following Microsoft's decision last month to increase its research and development activity in the country and Bill Gates's recent first time visit to Israel.
"Microsoft wants to increase its presence in Israel," Danny Yamin, general manager of Microsoft Israel told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday, at the Microsoft Tech Ed 2006 conference in Eilat. "Regardless of whether it decides to open a new R&D center or add to what we have, it doesn't matter. We'll increase our presence and the number of people working for Microsoft in Israel."
Yamin said the decision Microsoft made to establish a new research facility in Tel Aviv was coupled with an intention to boost its engagement with the local venture capital market, start-up companies, and the general information technology community in Israel, and was another step in the general "recognition for the great talent we have here in Israel."
Microsoft currently employs approximately 400 people between its R&D facility in Haifa and its 50 percent share in MSN Israel.
While Yamin said the company did not yet have concrete details about its plans for the new Tel Aviv facility, including how many people it would employ, he noted there were also plans to add staff in Haifa as part of the company's global decision to increase its R&D headcount.
Yamin added that the strong turn out at this year's Tech Ed conference was further recognition of the high level of activity in Israel.
Microsoft hosted it's fifth annual Tech Ed 2006 conference this week, attracting over 3,000 developers and information technology professionals from across the country, some 50% more than last year's event.
The big draw for the 2006 conference was Microsoft's presentation of Office and Windows Vista 2007 for the first time in Israel, ahead of the official launch of the business product at the end of this year, and Windows Vista and Office 2007 for consumers in January 2007.
In demonstrating the next generation of its product, at the opening of Tech Ed Eilat, Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for the Windows and Windows Live engineering group, said the product would raise the bar in standards of end user applications across the board in graphics, word and excel functions.
Yamin confirmed that the technologies applied in the next edition of Microsoft Office and Windows Vista were developed by the company's various design centers, including in Haifa, but could not expand on the exact nature of the Israeli contribution.
"We had an unparalleled richness of innovation in the digital revolution this year in which Israel was playing a significant role," Yamin said.
While he listed Israel among the top tier of innovative countries and its resulting ability to attract investment, Yamin warned, however, that the country should not become too complacent.
"India and China are currently more established in the outsourcing and services market, but we shouldn't rely on the lead we have over them in technological innovation, he said. "They are investing huge in education, in R&D and so on, and they will be there. So we have an advantage, but if we don't continue to invest in education it will vanish."
Yamin accounted Israel's recent successes in attracting major investors, in particular Warren Buffet's $4 billion purchase of Iscar, to its strong emphasis on education until now.
"I think that everyone is aware of the talent here, and the fact is that we are succeeding," he said. "But it's never enough and we should probably do more. The more we invest in education, the more we'll develop the likes of Iscar, Check Point, Comverse and Amdocs.
The author was a guest of Microsoft at the conference.