General Electric, the biggest U.S. conglomerate, announced plans to hire as many as 400 more software engineers for a new global center in San Ramon, Calif. The company said it plans to spend as much as $1 billion on software development through 2015.

The new software professionals will augment 5,000 current GE software engineers already working for the Fairfield, Conn.-based company.

Our goal today is to develop a new generation of intelligent systems that can predict and respond to changes, said VP Bill Ruh, who will direct the center.

Besides using technology for its own multifaceted operations from building jet engines, locomotives, MRI machines and other industrial products, GE Capital is already one of the world's biggest financial companies.

The new California center will be supervised by GE Global Research, the Niskayuna, N.Y. industrial laboratory charged with developing new products.  The research unit has established affiliates in China, Germany and India.

GE previously established two other centers for software development and management. In Michigan, the Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology already employs 1,000 professionals who develop software for internal GE operations.

An information security technology center near Richmond, Va., employs an unspecified number working on cyber security, network design and data management.

GE said the San Ramon center will be occupied next year.

GE reported third-quarter net income from continuing operations rose 11 percent to $3.4 billion as revenue rose 12 percent to $35.4 billion. The payroll now is about 300,000.

GE shares traded at $15.95, unchanged in midmorning, giving the company a market capitalization of $168.4 billion.