Microsoft Corp. today announced the formation of Microsoft® Live Labs, a research partnership between MSN® and Microsoft Research. Under the leadership of Dr. Gary William Flake, noted industry technologist and Microsoft technical fellow, Live Labs will consist of a dedicated group of researchers from MSN and Microsoft Research that will work with researchers across Microsoft and the academic research community. Live Labs will provide consistency in vision, leadership and infrastructure as well as a nimble applied research environment that fosters rapid innovations.
The Live Labs — a confederation of dedicated technologists and affiliated researchers in pre-existing projects from around Microsoft — will focus on Internet-centric applied research programs including rapidly prototyping and launching of emerging technologies, incubating entirely new inventions, and improving and accelerating Windows Live™ offerings. This complements the company’s continuing deep investment in basic research at Microsoft Research and product development at MSN.
Ray Ozzie, Craig Mundie and David Vaskevitch, Microsoft’s chief technical officers, will serve as the Live Labs Advisory Board.
That makes it sound like a reorganization and rebranding of existing projects with an emphasis on Windows Live ad tech work. But there’s a strong academic flavor too:
Because strong academic engagement with the research community is fundamental to the lab’s overall goals, Live Labs’ scientists and technologists are encouraged to actively and openly engage with the academic research community and publish their research findings.
Beyond collaboration, Live Labs will extend Microsoft’s existing engagement with the external academic research community through new opportunities for grants, sabbaticals, internships and fellowships. As one example, Live Labs announced today that a total of $500,000 (U.S.) is being made available through a new request for proposals to further encourage academic research in areas such as data mining, discovery and analysis as they relate to Internet search.
Ina Fried at CNET provides more background and an interview with Flake (who formerly worked at Yahoo) including:
The Internet, he said, allows both science and product development to be ongoing.
“It’s a much more continuous process,” said Flake, who also worked previously for Siemens Corporate Research and NEC Research Institute.
Although Microsoft is positioning the move as a way to improve society as a whole, the company has also said it will tap its research units to help it catch up to or leapfrog rivals such as Yahoo and Google.
“To the extent this helps us in any sort of competition, that’s great, but that’s actually a side effect,” Flake said. “It’s a happy side effect, nonetheless.”
Apparently it’s supposed to be both basic research and ad tech product development at the same time, which is often said, but seldom done. Time will tell which this really is.
Also announced in the press release was Search Labs:
Microsoft also announced the hiring of Dr. Ashok Chandra, a notable industry and academic researcher, as general manager of Search Labs, a new organization devoted to innovation and incubation that will be closely aligned with Live Labs. Search Labs will be stationed in Redmond and at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, Calif. Search Labs will focus on areas such as personalization, socialization and improved user experiences while maintaining strict regard for user privacy. In addition, Chandra’s teams will build technologies for data mining, vertical industries and parametric capabilities to go beyond the search bar experience.