May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp., the largest software maker, will hire several thousand workers in China to support new cloud computing services and smartphones using its Windows operating system, Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said.
The workforce expansion, from a current base of 4,000 staff, will take place during the next year, Ballmer said yesterday at a press conference in Shanghai that was streamed live on the Internet. He didn’t provide a specific number for new workers.
China has become the fastest growing market for the company’s smartphone operating system, Ballmer said. The Redmond, Washington-based company will start a public preview of its Windows Azure service in the country next month, making Microsoft the first multinational to offer public cloud computing in the nation.
“I visited China last about one year ago in May and it is remarkable to me how much has changed,” Ballmer, 57, said. “At Microsoft this is an incredibly exciting time.”
Microsoft is counting on Azure and Internet-based business programs to bolster growth as a global personal-computer slump erodes demand for its software installed on desktop machines. Shipments of PCs dropped 13.9 percent in the first three months of this year, the steepest quarterly decline ever, International Data Corp. reported last month.
Azure stores business information and programs on remote servers and lets customers access them over the Web. Clients use the service to run corporate programs, websites and applications from Microsoft’s data centers, rather than spending on their own servers, storage and workers.
Microsoft in November announced plans to offer Windows Azure in China through a partnership with 21Vianet Group Inc.
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