Kurt Akeley, assistant managing director at MSR Asia, said two of the labs strengths are graphics research and search technology research. "Typically when people do search today, its one or two words, about 95 percent of the time," Shum said. "But if you have something reasonably complicated or reasonably long, were still not there yet. So there is something called search relevance that Google has been ahead of most competitors in. But the gap is closing. And Yahoo [Inc.] claims statistically that this difference does not even exist anymore between Google and Yahoo. MSN, with a lot of help from MSR, is closing the gap."As China gains IT market muscle, BEA and others move in to tap the economic growth. Click here to read more.The goal of the Web Search & Mining Group at MSR Asia is to drive the next generation of Web search by leveraging data mining, machine learning and knowledge discovery techniques. MSR Asia is working on mobile search, multimedia search, vertical search, and unstructured or structured Web data. Ma said the most important area his group of researchers is working on is called object-level Web search. "If the [search] engine can further analyze all the data associated with this particular object and provide some statistics or even mining results and show you some intelligence about this object, I think we can move the search performance to one level up," Ma said. Ma demonstrated a prototype academic search engine MSR Asia calls "Libra" that uses the object-level search capability. "Libra is not a product yet, but we are currently working with the MSN search team in building this academic search engine," he said. Ma said he hopes to release early services by midyear. Microsofts Beijing research lab differs from some of the companys other research labs in terms of the diversity of the researchers, not in nationality but in skill. "Compared to other labs, my team is more diverse," Ma said. "I have people from data mining, databases, machine learning, information retrieval, distributed computing, multimedia ... mobile search. So I would categorize my team here as multidisciplinary." Some of the technology that will make up Microsofts Live software-as-a-service strategy will come from MSR Asia, Shum said. "Another good example thats even closer to announcement is Microsofts Ad Center," he said. "So the advertisements, the platform, a lot of that technology is from this lab here." BEA pledges to make China an IT world power. Click here to read more. Jian Wang, research manager of the Multimodal User Interface Group at MSR Asia, demonstrated a prototype of a new pen computing mechanism Microsoft has developed, known as UPen, or Ubiquitous Pen. "Were working on the user interface; particularly were working on pen computing," Wang said. "Were just looking for new ways that a human can interact with a computer system." Wang said his group is working in two different directions. "One is how to develop technology to make existing computer systemslike laptop and Tablet PCmuch more pen-friendly," he said. "Secondly, we are working to make pen computing more pervasive." The UPen makes every printed document digital, Wang said. The pen features a very small camera at its writing tip for tracking what is written or capturing hand-written mark-ups on printed documents. The UPen features handwriting recognition software, "a processor, memory, storage, and it has [Windows] CE 5.0 running on it," Wang said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.