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Top Microsoft China executive jumps over to Baidu

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The Chinese search giant Baidu has poached Microsoft’s head of research and development for the region, Zhang Yaqin.

According to the South China Morning Post and the Wall Street Journal, Zhang will become [company]Baidu[/company]’s head of new business. He’s been with [company]Microsoft[/company] for 14 years, and has headed up Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group since 2007.

Zhang, who was reportedly an important advisor to Microsoft’s leadership on its Chinese strategy, will help Baidu fight its ongoing war against major local web rivals like Alibaba and Tencent. The company is investing heavily in machine learning as a way of improving its search product (under the direction of chief scientist Andrew Ng, a Coursera co-founder), and last week invested in Finnish geolocation firm IndoorAtlas to score exclusivity on that company’s geomagnetic technology within China.

His arrival may be good news for Baidu but it’s pretty bad timing for Microsoft. Although the SCMP‘s sources told the paper that he had already decided to leave when this happened, a month ago the Chinese authorities launched an antitrust probe against the U.S. firm, with a focus on the way it bundles Windows and Office. This may be seen as part of a wider argument between the two countries over espionage and hacking.

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