Microsoft will spend US$280 million on a Beijing research and development center and double its full-time R&D staff in China to 3,000 over the next few years, the Wall Street Journal reported. Microsoft China’s chairman, Zhang Ya-Qin, said during the center’s groundbreaking ceremony that China is the company’s largest R&D area outside the US. The center will be finished in 2010. In 2006, the firm agreed to spend US$31 million on R&D labs in China, and it entered into an R&D joint venture with Lenovo last year. Microsoft’s decision to focus R&D on China indicates the country’s importance, the Journal said. China is the world’s second-largest personal computer market by number of units sold.