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Microsoft has opened its first mobile technology R&D facility outside the US, setting up shop in Seoul to tap local software expertise.

The South Korea Mobile Innovation Lab will be funded to the tune of $30m over the next three years, the software giant said, local newspaper the JoongAng Daily reports. Some 30 staff are expected to join the facility, ten from the US and the rest recruited locally.

The South Korean government is not contributing to the cost of the Lab's foundation, the report noted, although the country's Information Minister said it supports Microsoft's move.

The MIL will develop new handset designs and mobile applications, and build closer ties with Korean hardware manufacturers. It's not clear at this stage to what extent the Lab will focus solely on the Korean market, or will develop technology with a wider applicability.

Either way, the move paves the way for further MIL foundations in the region, increasingly the focus of mobile phone development, particularly around Microsoft's own Windows Mobile operating system and its arch-rival, Linux. ®

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