Microsoft gets a new leader for its business in Greater China. Yang Hou, former senior vice president at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement published on Monday.
After eight years at Qualcomm, where he led sales and business development, Hou will lead Microsoft’s strategy, sales and operations in the Greater China region. According to the announcement, Hou has been credited with triple sales growth for Qualcomm’s semiconductor business and promoting partnerships in the smartphone, industrial and automotive industries in China.
Born in northeast China, Hou worked for McKinsey & Company for five years after graduating from the University of Michigan and Peking University.
Crozier joined Microsoft in 1994 and will officially pass the torch to Hou in July. His next step will be announced.
Crozier is stepping down at a time when China is trying to outperform the US as a global technology leader. The ongoing trade dispute between the US and China has rocked the global supply chain, driving up manufacturing costs for American hardware manufacturers. Meanwhile, a number of older US tech giants are reducing their presence in China, where they have historically maintained research teams, to better understand the thriving Chinese market.
In 2019, Oracle laid off hundreds of employees at its research and development center in China. Last year, IBM closed its research and development center in China after 25 years in part due to increased labor costs, former employees told ..
Microsoft’s counterpart, Microsoft Research Asia, is widely recognized and considered the “West Point” for China’s artificial intelligence scientists. Famous alumni include ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming and the founder of the autonomous unicorn Momenta.
Compared to its fame in the Chinese tech industry, Microsoft’s sales in China are modest due to rampant piracy and competition. In a 2018 interview, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that 90% of companies in China use the Microsoft operating system, but only 1% pay for it.
In the new line of business, Microsoft has tried to roll out its Azure cloud computing product to Chinese companies but has so far been dwarfed by domestic players Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei.
China contributed less than 2% of Microsoft’s annual revenue, or around $ 2 billion, President Brad Smith said in January 2020.
Like other overseas tech firms operating in China, Microsoft often finds itself halfway between local authorities and language attorneys. The professional social network LinkedIn and the search engine Bing have both been criticized for censoring content that has been classified as sensitive by the Chinese government.