BusinessWeek Online profiles Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s Right Brain:
Microsoft hired Rashid, 54, from Carnegie Mellon in 1991, and he now runs one of the most ambitious basic-research units in the business. As senior vice president of research, Rashid manages more than 600 research scientists scattered among labs in Bangalore; Beijing; Cambridge, England; San Francisco; Silicon Valley; and Redmond, Wash. Despite the sprawl, Rashid tries to model this operation on a university lab — though most academics, however, would probably envy the $250 million a year that Rashid has to throw at projects on the frontiers of information technology.
All of this requires changing the traditional metrics behind corporate research. Rather than measuring researchers’ performance based on the amount of work that gets transferred into the company’s products, staff members are judged on the number of important papers they unveil in technical journals or at conferences. His unit is a magnet for talented PhD scientists.
All of which is the sign of a company flush with cash. Bell Labs, IBM Research, and Xerox PARC have all been in that enviable position in the past, but it’s a condition that doesn’t seem to last.