Microsoft looks to hire 7,000 staff and sell Slate

Microsoft Corp. said on Friday that it plans to hire as many as 7,000 people in its current fiscal year and increase spending on...

Microsoft plans to hire as many as 7,000 people in the current financial year and increase spending on research and development. The company is also talking to potential buyers for its online magazine, Slate.

The new staff will fill existing and new posts, Microsoft said. About 3,000 people are expected to be hired for the company's Washington State headquarters, and slightly fewer than 3,000 internationally.

In the financial year to the end of June, Microsoft hired 2,163 people in new positions and replaced 4,937 staff who left the company, giving a total of 7,100 positions filled. The company had planned for around 5,000 posts to be filled at the beginning of the year.

As of 30 June, Microsoft's full-time, regular staff numbered 57,086 worldwide. At the same time last year, the headcount was 54,923. About two-thirds of the new positions during the year were based in Washington State, a spokeswoman said.

Microsoft provided no information on the specific types of jobs it added over the past year, or which openings it expects to have this year. Some careers may be in R&D, because Microsoft is increasing its investment in that area by $200m ($108m) to $4.8bn this year, the company said.

The R&D investment amounts released on Friday exclude various charges, for example for employee stock-based compensation. Microsoft executives in the past year have talked up the company's $6.8bn R&D investment for the 2004 financial year. The earnings report Thursday showed a $7.8bn expense for R&D in 2004.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is in talks with several media companies for a potential takeover of its online magazine Slate. The negotiations are in early stages, a source said. Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment.

Slate was founded with Microsoft's help in 1996 by Michael Kinsley, currently editorial and opinion editor of the Los Angeles Times. The online magazine is part of Microsoft's MSN business, which also includes the Hotmail e-mail service, and the MSN portal and internet search site.

Microsoft reported an operating profit of $121m for MSN in 2004, the first full-year profit for the group. Microsoft attributed the turnaround to increased advertising revenue and a growth in paid search listing. The company does not provide earnings details for Slate, but the publication is said to be breaking even.  

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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