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Kai-Fu Lee

Kai-Fu Lee (b. December 3, 1961) is an information technology executive and a computer science researcher. The founding president of Google China, he was hired in July, 2005. He became the focus of a 2005 legal dispute between Google and Microsoft, his former employer, due to a one-year non-compete agreement that he signed with Microsoft in 2000 when he became its corporate vice president of interactive services.


Lee was born in Taipei, Republic of China, the son of Tien-Min Li, a legislator and historian from Sichuan, China.



In 1973, Lee immigrated to the United States and attended high school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in computer science from Columbia University in 1983, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Academic research

At Carnegie Mellon, Lee worked on topics in machine learning and pattern recognition. In 1986, he and Sanjoy Mahajan developed Bill , a Bayesian learning-based system for playing the board game Othello that won the US national tournament of computer players in 1989 In 1988, he completed his doctoral dissertation on Sphinx, the first large-vocabulary, speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system.

Lee has authored two books on speech recognition and more than 60 papers in computer science. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1988 as a Kluwer monograph, Automatic Speech Recognition: The Development of the Sphinx Recognition System (ISBN 0898382963). Together with Alex Waibel, another Carnegie Mellon researcher, Lee edited Readings in Speech Recognition (1990, ISBN 1558601244).

Apple, SGI, and Microsoft

After two years as a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon, Lee joined Apple Computer in 1990 as a research and development executive. While at Apple (1990-1996), he headed R&D groups that developed PlainTalk, the Apple Newton, and several versions of QuickTime and QuickTime VR.

Lee moved to Silicon Graphics in 1996 and spent a year as president of their VRML division, Cosmo Software.

In 1998, Lee moved to Microsoft and went to Beijing, China where he established the Microsoft Research division there. MSR China later became known as MSR Asia. Lee returned to the United States in 2000 and was vice president of interactive services at Microsoft from 2000 to 2005.

Move from Microsoft to Google

In July, 2005, Lee left Microsoft to take a position at Google.

On July 19, 2005, Microsoft sued Google and Lee in a Washington state court over Google's hiring of its former Vice President of Interactive Services, claiming that Lee was violating his non-compete agreement by working for Google within one year of leaving the Redmond-based software corporation. Microsoft argued that Lee would inevitably disclose proprietary information to Google if he was allowed to work there. On July 28, Washington state Superior Court Judge Steven González granted Microsoft a temporary restraining order, which prohibited Lee from working on Google projects that compete with Microsoft pending a trial scheduled for January 9, 2006. On September 13, following a hearing, Judge González issued a ruling permitting Lee to work for Google, but barring him from starting work on some technical projects until the case goes to trial in January 2006. Lee was still allowed to recruit employees for Google in China and to talk to government officials about licensing, but was prohibited from working on technologies such as search or speech. Lee was also prohibited from setting budgets, salaries, and research directions for Google in China until the case goes to trial in January 2006.

Before the case could go to trial, on December 22, 2005 Google and Microsoft announced that they had reached a settlement whose terms are confidential, ending a five-month dispute between the two companies.

Previous jobs

  • Corporate Vice President, Natural Interactive Services Division (NISD), Microsoft Corp. 2000 - July, 2005
  • Founder, Microsoft Research Asia, China, 1998-2000
  • President, Cosmo Software
  • President, Multimedia Software Business Unit, Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI)
  • Vice President & General Manager, Web Products, Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI)
  • Vice President, Interactive Media Group, Apple Computer, 1990-1996
  • Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University



External links

Microsoft lawsuit against Google

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