Microsoft Canada plans to hire more than 100 people this year as it builds a new $73 million local headquarters and turns its old building into a global technology support centre.

Microsoft said it will be moving staff to

its new 160,000 sq, ft. head office on Mississauga Road just north of Highway 401 in November. The company has been headquartered at 320 Matheson Blvd. W. since 1991.

The global technology support centre will be the final node in a series of four facilities the software giant has set up in North America, including centres in Texas, Washington and North Carolina. The Microsoft Canada centre will be focused on support issues for Windows 2000 and Exchange for customers throughout North, Central and South America.

“”We had some support people up here that would handle a certain level of calls, but for any of the advanced technical support calls, that would be routed down into the U.S.,”” said David Willis, Microsoft Canada’s director of consumer, business and support. “”Not only are we going to be staffing up to take all of that extra call demand, but we’re going to be supporting a higher level of technical products, so from that perspective the number of skilled people that we’ll be bringing on board is quite high as well.””

Microsoft Canada expects the call centre to support at least 50 jobs, while the firm adds approximately 65 positions in sales, marketing, channel relations, systems engineering and technical specialization. Many of the new hires will be concentrated on specific product lines. For example, Microsoft is preparing to launch a Tablet PC operating system later this year, and the company is recruiting marketing people to evangelize the technology and its benefits to knowledge workers. Right now Microsoft employs 580 people in Canada, many of which are in Toronto, but also in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and Winnipeg.

Willis said overall call volumes at Microsoft Canada have been going down, but the support issues themselves are becoming more intricate. Chris Trauzzi, president of Toronto-based software development firm WebFront Communications, said that’s because Microsoft is moving deeper into the enterprise space where integration gets tricky.

“”The more complexity of the application, the more report that’s going to be required,”” said Trauzzi, whose company creates software solutions that incorporate Microsoft SQL Server and BizTalk, among others. “”When you’re tying these products all together, you’re going to have issues because you’re tying into legacy systems, modern systems and so on.””

Trauzzi added that while WebFront handles much of its own client calls, it relies on Microsoft to be a second level of support for issues where it lacks expertise.

The move to a new headquarters will give Microsoft Canada the chance to ugrade some of its internal technology, Willis said. For example, the Mississauga Road location will be completely wireless. “”We’re all attached to our notebooks now,”” he said. “”It’s going to be nice to be able to go from meeting room to meeting room and be connected all the time.””

Though the new support centre will be offering support in English, Willis said the company would be maintaining a staff of approximately 20 people to handle French-language support calls.



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