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Microsoft Research Fights Critics 361

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the easy-things-to-fix-that-corporate-overlords-don't-want-to-do dept.
coondoggie writes to tell us Network World is taking a look at why Microsoft Research has to fight so hard against critics. From the article: "When the word 'innovation' is tossed about many may look down their nose at the company sitting on top of the high-tech industry — Microsoft. [...] Microsoft Research incubates not only futuristic ideas but young minds, having hired 700 interns worldwide this year including 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone, which is roughly 21% of all the computer science PhD candidates in the United States."
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Microsoft Research Fights Critics

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  • deservedly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:55PM (#17137352) Journal

    If Microsoft were less predatory and less a bully in business maybe the rest of the world would stop looking down their noses at Microsoft's "research". As it is, it looks less like research and more like unfettered spending to find "yet another" way to dominate.

    I welcome research from any company. I'm guessing I've probably used what amounts to "innovation" from Microsoft, derivative of work from their labs.

    Unfortunately for Microsoft (but true to their character) they have tools for mouthpieces like Ballmer. Microsoft inks a deal in what could only be viewed with raised eyebrows, and Ballmer punctuates that with "they're infringing our IP anyway...". As long as Microsoft continues to be so hostile to the world in general, they get what they sow.

    Their research may be golden, but it's ill-gotten gains, the world thinks so, and the world is probably right. The fact that Microsoft has such a corner on every market that they can hire 25% of the Computer Science PhD candidates only adds fuel to the fires of suspicion.

    In the interim, it's a shame Bell Labs has gone from world leader to nothing... budget cuts, etc. (Lucent)... there was some real research there, and lots of it was shared with the world.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by russ1337 (938915)
      >>> having hired ..... 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone..."

      But will M$FT listen to a damn thing they have to say?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by benbritten (72301)
        >>> having hired ..... 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone..."

        this is the problem. i dont know how many of you ahve worked with CS doctorates, but they are some of the most obtuse people i know, and dont generally have any idea what it is the average person wants or needs. (which, imho is what drives this industry)

        contrast this with apple, who employ top knotch designers to come up with the ideas, and then hire the big brains to implement it.

        a good example might be apple's new 't
    • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#17137706) Homepage

      As it is, it looks less like research and more like unfettered spending to find "yet another" way to dominate.

      Or more to the point, my complaint with Microsoft over the last few years is that they seem to have been spending more money on figuring out how to restrict my use of their products, and not very much money on figuring out how to make my life easier.

      Now, maybe it's just me, personally, but I'm a home user and an IT professional. I use computers a lot for various things, and Windows seems to be getting harder to deal with. If I have to call Microsoft over another activation problem, I'm going to want to kill someone.... actually the truth is I've past that point a while ago.

      Maybe it's just because Microsoft is servicing someone other than me. Maybe there's someone out there who's pleased as punch at the changes in Vista and Office 2007. I honestly think MS hit their peak in 2000, and things have just gotten more frustrating since then. Keep It Simple, Stupid. My needs aren't that unusual or complicated, but Microsoft doesn't seem to be making a lot of headway. Security. Stability. Easy imaging. Effective backups. Compatibility and interoperability. The ability to manage the ever-increasing mail stores. Transparency into what the computer is actually doing so that it can be manipulated more easily for any purpose.

      For christ's sake, if you're going to pay so much for "innovation", try to tackle some of the fundamental problems with modern computing, instead of gimmicky wireless sharing for MP3 players, new copy-protection schemes, and snazzy graphics for FreeCell.

      • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:44PM (#17138158) Homepage Journal
        For christ's sake, if you're going to pay so much for "innovation", try to tackle some of the fundamental problems with modern computing, instead of gimmicky wireless sharing for MP3 players, new copy-protection schemes, and snazzy graphics for FreeCell.

        Microsoft research does try to tackle such problems, the dilemma is that their work, as far as I can tell, seems to get ignored when it comes to product development and marketing. What fundamental problems in modern computing is Microsoft research trying to tackle? How about programming concurrent software. Traditionally this is hard, and error prone. What we need is a model of concurrency, and a programming language to support it, that makes programming concurrent systems easy, and make reasoning about it easy. Microsoft is working in that area with C-omega [microsoft.com] and extension of C# with a better concurrency system. See the tutorials [microsoft.com] to get an idea of how it works. It's not unique, there are other concurrency oriented languages out there like Occam, AliceML, Oz etc. that handle concurrency well, and other concurrency language extensions, like SCOOP for Eiffel, and JCSP for Java, that seek to add better concurrency models to existing languages. Still C-omea is its own tangent, and has interesting ideas (as do the other similar projects and other languages).

        What about the issue of maintainability and quality assurance in software? Certainly that's at the heart of a deep problem, and there are no easy answers. There are things you can do to make better quality assurance easier however. Microsoft's effort on that front is Spec# [microsoft.com] which adds design by Contract to C# and provides extended static checking (using the Simplify theorem prover) to provide static verification of contracts where possible. This provides another layer of quality assurance, and (by integrating the static checking into Visual Studio) automates most of the work, meaning it requires little extra effort from programmers. Again this is not unique, there's Eiffel which has had DbC but no static verification for a very long time, and there's JML and ESC/Java2 which provides DbC (via annotations in comments) and extended static checking (again using the Simplify theorem prover) for Java - you can even get Eclipse plugins to integrate it into your IDE. Still Spec# is going it's own way (and has much better integration directly into the language than JML, which remains as comments) and has interesting ideas of its own.

        The problem is not that Microsoft research isn't doing anything interesting, it's that projects like this tend to get buried, or ignored, or simply have a few ideas shifted into existing products. Things like Spec# offer sufficient gains that Microsoft's marketing department really ought to be crowing about it as a major upcoming feature, and serious effort to properly polish it as a product and get it into C# and VisualStudio should be underway. Instead it remains a page tucked away on MS research with little or nothing said about it.
        • by Cyberax (705495)
          If you want REAL concurrency then look at Erlang (and it was created back in 1993).

          If you want a feature-rich language supporting metaprogramming and functional programming style - then look at http://nemerle.org/Main_Page [nemerle.org] (I hope nobody from RSDN reads this...).

          Spec# is yet-another-theorem-prover built in in language. NASA did this for Java years ago and I've read that a similar approach was used with Lisp back in 70-s.

          I don't see much real innovations from MS Research. It seems that they just try to adapt
          • by Coryoth (254751)
            Sorry, yes, I missed Erlang on my list, but it fits alongside Occam and AliceML (Occam is older than Erlang, btw, dating from 1983 10 years before Erlang). Just because some languages have good concurrency models doesn't mean developing better models and ways to integrate them effectively into existing popular languages is not research. Try actually reading some of the published papers on C-omega's concurrency system before you blithely ignore it.

            Likewise Spec# borrows ideas (honestly, what development does
          • by HiThere (15173) *
            Unfortunately, Erlang is SLOW when doing anything EXCEPT concurrency. (At least when rated by http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/ [debian.org] ).

            Another problem that I have with it is the lack of any object model, or any decent tutorial.

            It does do concurrency well, but that, by itself, isn't sufficient. (I just checked it out for a couple of days recently. Not long enough to really know the language, but long enough to get a high-level feel of it.)

            One nice thing about Erlang is it's good connection to a database. (We
        • by Anonymous Coward
          "The problem is not that Microsoft research isn't doing anything interesting, it's that projects like this tend to get buried, or ignored, or simply have a few ideas shifted into existing products."

          Microsoft Research is to research what AC's are to slashdot. Burned, buried, and ignored with a few modded up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by naoursla (99850)
          Microsoft Robotics Studio includes a new technology called Coordination and Concurrency Runtime to help make highly concurrent programming easier. You can download the current preview of Robotics Studio at http://microsoft.com/robotics [microsoft.com]. There is also information on the CCR at http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=1435 82 [msdn.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Microsoft research does try to tackle such problems, the dilemma is that their work, as far as I can tell, seems to get ignored when it comes to product development and marketing. What fundamental problems in modern computing is Microsoft research trying to tackle?

          All that stuff is great, but if you can't create basic functionality that is simple and robust, sophisticated new developments are pretty useless. That is in fact, Microsoft's ongoing problem-- they're so busy working on the future that they d

        • Re:deservedly (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @08:51PM (#17139880)
          Just what the world needs, C# extensions. The very existence of C# is a fine example of the standard operating procedure at Microsoft, and why many people hate them. To me, it seems that Microsoft spends a great deal of resources duplicating existing technology (Direct3d == OpenGL, C# == Java, IE == Netscape, etc...) to create platform lock-in. Eventually, their "innovations" may even be better than the technology they cloned, but invariably it took many man-years of effort to get there. If MS started with the existing technology and moved forward from there, we'd all be better off, but that's not how MS plays the game.

          Unfortunately, I see Microsoft research as another expression of their business model. Then again, Bell Labs was created to protect AT&T's monopoly, so why should MS be any different?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Maybe there's someone out there who's pleased as punch at the changes in Vista and Office 2007.

        Microsoft Marketing, the RIAA, and the MPAA.

        Next question?
      • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by paulsnx2 (453081) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:03PM (#17138462)
        If I have to call Microsoft over another activation problem

        Why should I as a business owner or shareholder spend my money to do a task whose result isn't a benefit to the business, but to some other company from whom I bought a product? In other words, when a business pays someone to solve an "activation" problem, they have paid someone to insure that Microsoft was paid. The business receives no benefit, but they are out the money anyway.

        When Microsoft pours money into research on how to develop technologies that seek to avoid theft of their product, that is fine until part of their solution increases the cost of ownership. When Microsoft pours money into "securing digital rights", that's fine until part of their solution increases the cost of access to content.

        Microsoft and others are struggling to survive in a future where computers have nearly unlimited disk space, increasing numbers of processors, vast memory spaces, and high bandwidth to other computers. Very soon we should be able to run multiple operating systems on a single computer at the same time. Running on virtual machines will be the norm, if for no other reason than to allow applications the freedom they need to run and not step on each other or get killed by viruses and compromised by spyware.

        Everyone would be impressed if Microsoft was embracing this future and working to leverage all this power for the sake of the user. Instead, Microsoft appears to be working late into the night doing everything they can to insure each day dawns according to the same old paradigms that made them billions in the past.
        • Yes, this was largely my point. Contrary to the implication of the name "Windows Genuine Advantage", Microsoft's anti-piracy measures offer me no advantage. What they're doing is making life harder on legitimate customers in what I find to be an unreasonable fashion. It would be comparable to a butcher knocking on your door every day and demanding to inspect your refrigerator in order to make sure you don't have any meat that he hasn't certified. Why should it be my responsibility to constantly re-prove
      • For christ's sake, if you're going to pay so much for "innovation", try to tackle some of the fundamental problems with modern computing, instead of gimmicky wireless sharing for MP3 players, new copy-protection schemes, and snazzy graphics for FreeCell

        What makes you think the don't? Try reading any major peer-reviewed computer science journal, or conference proceedings, and you'll find people from MS Research well represented.

    • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by El Cubano (631386) <roberto@conne[ ].com ['xer' in gap]> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:34PM (#17137982) Homepage

      Unfortunately for Microsoft (but true to their character) they have tools for mouthpieces like Ballmer. Microsoft inks a deal in what could only be viewed with raised eyebrows, and Ballmer punctuates that with "they're infringing our IP anyway...". As long as Microsoft continues to be so hostile to the world in general, they get what they sow.

      Nobody (or at least most people) argues that Microsoft doesn't come up with original ideas. Their research arm has a ton of truly brilliant people. I mean, Leslie Lamport and Tony Hoare work there. The problem is not that Microsoft can't come up with some innovative stuff. The problem is in how they translate it from their research side to their implementation and then marketing, which is usually pretty lousy.

      • by Tim C (15259)
        Nobody (or at least most people) argues that Microsoft doesn't come up with original ideas.

        Really? In every single article posted here about MS products (especially Vista and IE7) you'll see literally dozens of comments arguing exactly that. I'm no MS fanboi, but the FUD gets a little tiresome - we're supposed to be above that...
      • Re:deservedly (Score:4, Interesting)

        by steve_l (109732) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:39PM (#17138952) Homepage
        One issue with hiring the masters like Lamport is that they like to do their own thing, and want a large staff underneath; in industry its harder to get head count than in academia, where you have undergrads, RAs and phd students to suffer at low cost for the sake of a professor.

        The other problem -tech transfer- is the enemy of all R&D labs, and of academia too. There's a lot of good ideas out there, that don't make it out into a world that has the x86 as the primary CPU, A DOS derivative and a Unix derivative as the choices of OS, and C/C++ as the primary programming languages.

        FWIW, I work in a corporate R&D lab in the UK, and getting anything taken up is always a miracle to be celebrated. Except when it takes so long to come to market that they shouldnt have bothered. This is why open source is so much better as a way of doing tech transfer. If you have something good, a patch, a test and the ability to argue your case, it can be in the code tree in a week, and in people's hands the next day, in mainstream distros within a month or two.

        Whereas MS Research? Vista took 5 years. Every new idea in the last three of those years will have been postponed to its successor. So the lag between an idea and product is 3-5 years, compared to 3-5 weeks.

        -steve
    • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ewhac (5844) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:37PM (#17138036) Homepage Journal
      In the interim, it's a shame Bell Labs has gone from world leader to nothing... budget cuts, etc. (Lucent)... there was some real research there, and lots of it was shared with the world.

      Don't be too quick to lionize Bell Labs, as they were the research arm of The Phone Company (AT&T), which itself was the object of scorn for decades for abusing their position of being the only game in town. Just as you argue that Micros~1's research are "ill-gotten gains" from their predatory business practices, one could also level the same argument against the Bell Labs of 40 years ago.

      Don't misunderstand; I am in no way a Micros~1 apologist, and would richly enjoy watching the company collapse under its own hubris and technical incompetence. It's simply that, if you're going to slam the company, you need to pick your comparisons more carefully.

      Schwab

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rssrss (686344)
        Bell Labs has at least two Nobel prizes (Transistor and Cosmic Background Radiation) to its credit, together with tremendous advances in theoretical (Information Theory) and practical (UNIX and C) computer science. Micro$oft is not in the same league, heck, it's not even on the same continent.

        Another comparable is IBM. Yes they were the monopolist villains of their time. But, they also invented things such as RISC and Relational Databases.

        Micro$oft is spending a fortune and coming up with scraps and baubles
      • by HiThere (15173) *
        The phone company was the object of scorn for being high-handed and arbitrary. I never, however, heard anyone say that Bell Labs wasn't innovative. The phone company may have tried to stamp out modems, but Bell Labs wasn't blamed for that, and didn't deserve blame for that.

        OTOH, can anyone say that MS has an equivalent organization? If so, they definitely hide it.
    • Re:deservedly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:44PM (#17138148)
      If Microsoft were less predatory and less a bully in business maybe the rest of the world would stop looking down their noses at Microsoft's "research". As it is, it looks less like research and more like unfettered spending to find "yet another" way to dominate.

      Clearly you know very little about what you're talking about, but as your comment is in perfect accordance with the dominant groupthink it gets modded up anyway. MSR is actually less restrictive than an average PhD program, you can work on basically anything you want, which is one of the reasons PhDs find it so appealling. It is more or less independent from the rest of MS, and the researchers are certainly not driven by a desire to find "yet another way to dominate". Yet this, of course, is precisely also the reason for the difficulty they are having with technology transfer.

      It's one thing to look down on MS because of what they bring to market, and quite another to look down on the great work done in MSR, much of which is free to download and use [microsoft.com] by anyone. If you want to deride professionals doing great work by putting scare quotes around "research" (really, don't you think that's a little much?), do it for a better reason than your kneejerk conflation of what MSR is doing and MS' business practices.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by arniebuteft (1032530)
      >As it is, it looks less like research and more like unfettered spending to find "yet another" way to dominate.

      Umm.. should Microsoft be researching ways to help its competition take it over? Of course MS is going to be looking for the next killer 'thing' (app, console, music player, etc.) to lead the market. That's the beauty of a market - companies have incentives to do things which make the company stronger.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Sponge Bath (413667)

      ...more like unfettered spending to find "yet another" way to dominate.

      Such as keeping talented people from working for the competition.
      Now they can be safely tasked to researching Clippy NT (New Technology, yay!)

  • Not a Huge Surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:57PM (#17137390) Journal
    A lot of large IT companies looked outside of computer science. I mean, yeah, engineers should be the core of your work force but diversity is always a big plus. It didn't surprise me to see this quote:

    The MSR staff, however, is not just computer scientists, it includes psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and medical doctors who are tasked with pushing the envelope on state of the art technology as much or more than transferring their technology into new and existing Microsoft products.
    Large companies shouldn't hire these professions just to "push the envelope." Instead, I would hope that all companies diversified as their employee numbers grow. I work in a large IT company and have witnessed the above professions working effectively--especially in the R&D department.

    • Psychologists

      One of the areas of studies the gets some of the most criticism from me. But you know what? When it comes to performing experiments on how people think and react to stimuli, psychologists are pretty damn good at it since all their data has been collected empirically from subjects. And who uses the code and devices we make in the end? Humans. And who better to tell you what the effects will be after a human has used your product for hours on end? You know, I've often wondered how many psychologists Blizzard employs because I can play that game for long periods of time with little or no fatigue on my eyes/brain.
    • Sociologists

      As software becomes more and more decentralized and internet based, communities form around it. Communities identify themselves by it. For instance, I am part of the Slashdot community by merely posting on it. Think about how many sociologists that MySpace must employ to predict/track or protect people from social deviance. How do you handle that? How do you address that? Not really an engineer's department.
    • Anthropologists

      Now that's a word I hear thrown around a lot and abused to mean many things. But most importantly, it's the study of diverse kinds of people. If you're an international company, you need anthropologists to view your projects and make sure that you aren't inadvertently calling your product or displaying something that may limit your market or create bad press. Engineers focus on one type of person when they make their product and so you need people to make sure that it is still marketable to the world.
    • Medical Doctors

      Most likely hired for the sheer fact that baby boomers are getting old. Huge market for healthcare. If you can make anything related to it and sell it, you're in the money for the coming years. I may be a horrible monster for saying this but things like Alzheimer's Disease are multi-billion dollar industries based on treatments. Gene therapy and computational techniques in gene sequencing just make the field all that more lucrative.

      On top of that, you need to think of the disabled using your product and be conscious of their disabilities. Also, what medical problems might be associated with your product or how can you make it easier on the end user. You don't want a million lawsuits if I'm losing my eye sight or getting arthritis by playing WoW, do you?
    I'm actually shocked that list wasn't longer and more astonishing. No music theory majors to look at musical products like Guitar Hero's success? No athletic trainers to combat my country's obesity or offer and IT solution for it? No history majors to ... to ... ok well maybe they really are useless (I'm kidding).

    Come on people, this is the R&D of the largest software company in the world. I'm shocked that I'm not more shocked on what they're up to.
    • by mcguyver (589810)
      Microsoft is far from being the largest company in America, let alone the world...
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:57PM (#17137394) Homepage
    Is the stuff that's going on at MS really all that interesting that 21% of PHD students want to work there? Or is the pay just that good? Or are they just looking for a nice shiny star on their resume? It seems to me that there would be a lot more interesting places to work than MS.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MSFanBoi2 (930319)
      Maybe its all of the above?

      And what would be wrong with any of those options for a PhD student?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm a Ph.D. student in one of the big universities. I also work as an IT consultant while I'm trying to finish. I have interned in several large companies and now work in a startup. I have also talked to _many_ Ph.D. students about interning at MS and would like to convey those findings here.

      First, nobody finishes a Ph.D then wants to work at MS in order to find an interesting career. New grads or interns go there to make some money, and hope to move on soon. The respect for MS from IT-aware people is
  • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:01PM (#17137468)
    That for all its "innovation", Microsoft have never in the whole of history released a truly new product. Everything they've ever produced (right the way down to Microsoft Paint - once upon a time there was a DOS version produced by someone else) has been either bought or rehashed from someone else.

    Sure, they've played around with things a bit - changed the interface here and there, come up with slight tweaks, But at the end of the day, it's not the tweaks that get recognised as innovation; it's the whole new products.
  • "research" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:01PM (#17137470)
    FTA:"There are virtually no products Microsoft produces today that have not either taken technology from research, come directly out of research, or been built using the tools and technologies we've created in research," he says.

    Does that include Zune? The Microsoft music service? How much research did it take to come up with 'We need to make our own iPod and music service'?

    Flame On...

    • Re:"research" (Score:5, Informative)

      by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:38PM (#17138052)
      That's not MSR. That's marketing research. (I don't know what the department that does that is named though.)

      MSR's the group that came up with SLAM [microsoft.com], which is now incorporated into the Windows driver framework. It's resulted in (over the last 5 years) two POPL papers (one of the two top-tiered programming language conferences), a PLDI paper (the other of the two), a PASTE paper, a TOPLAS paper, three TACAS papers, three CAV papers, a few workshop papers, and a spinoff project at UC Berkeley called BLAST which is doing things very similar to SLAM. (They've had their own fair share of papers, and probably a doctoral thesis or two, on it.)

      MSR's the group that wrote Singularity, an experimental OS written in C#, that has an ASPLOS paper, two EuroSys papers (one of which got the best paper award), and three workshop papers.

      MSR's the group that wrote Vulcan, a binary rewriter that allowed them to create a program that records the execution trace of another program and play it back later. This is useful in, for instance, temporal debugging. (Think the Omnicient Debugger for Java, except made to work on any program because it operates on binaries. Except that MSR developed two other applications for the recorded traces.) This, and other projects that MSR has done with Vulcan, have resulted in a number of other papers.

      Say what you like about MS in general, but MSR publishes more good research than many (probably even most) university CS depts.
      • I work in corporate R&D, so want to make one ruthless statement to a pretty impressive list of publications.

        In academia, publications are your metric of success. In industry, its your ability to generate an ROI by improving the company's profits.

        Xerox PARC was a failure to xerox. Not to Canon, HP and adobe (laser printing and PDF), not to apple, MS or the rest of the world that uses GUIs. But it was to Xerox. I dont know if MSR has repaid their investment yet. Frankly, at the estimated $10B that vista c
      • by mspohr (589790)
        Did MSR invent Bob?....

        That's true innovation...

    • by soft_guy (534437)
      Or the XBox: "Dude, lets make a game system like everyone else."
  • what critics? (Score:5, Informative)

    by idlake (850372) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:02PM (#17137492)
    I don't know of anybody criticizing Microsoft Research: there are lots of good people doing good work there. People are criticizing Microsoft's business practices and products. Good research doesn't necessarily translate into good products, in particular if a company's primary goal is market dominance through lock-in and other tricks.
    • by Pojut (1027544)
      Exactly. I have always said that Microsoft employs some of the best marketing folks in the world, as well as some extremely intelligent people all around.

      To rehash what you said, only "bandwagon riders" and fools hate microsoft for their intelligence...they hate them for their buisness practices. Regardless of your opinion of them, you cannot deny that they are highly successful in their goals.

      ***awaits some stupid comparison to Hitler***
  • MS research (Score:2, Informative)

    by El Lobo (994537)
    MS research have an incredible number of cool projects. Unfortunatly, MS research are not so narcissistic as Google lab, so they are almost unknown to the average Joe out there. Some of the cool projects they are working on are:


    * Singularity OS
    * Socio-Digital systems
    * Digital geographics
    * Natural Language Processing ...

    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      Wow, Google are more open to the community, and you still manage to put a negative spin on it!
  • I think I'm going to tag this article "assimilation".
  • by xs650 (741277)
    "MSR has grown from an idea to more than 700 researchers working out of five labs around the globe with a budget of more than $250 million. MSR incubates not only futuristic ideas but young minds, having hired 700 interns worldwide this year including 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone, which is roughly 21% of all the computer science PhD candidates in the United States. It's a program Microsoft officials say is the world's largest PhD. internship program for computer science."

    Makes their
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gvc (167165)
      MSR is not a product development group. It is a research organization within Microsoft. MSR researchers pursue curiosity-driven research and publish in the normal academic channels.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by linguae (763922)

      That's because, unlike the old Bell Labs nor Google, Microsoft doesn't really capitalize from its research. Look at the research with Singularity [microsoft.com], for example. As a future computer science researcher (I'm just a sophomore in college now), I would love to get my hands on a system like this. Finally something new that isn't based off of nearly 40 years of Unix. The goals are quite noble and innovative, and I'm glad that Microsoft is doing systems research, something that seems to have been neglected in co

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)
        What's the point of doing research if you're not going to use it for something? That's just a big waste of time and effort.

        When Bell Labs invented the transistor, it wasn't doing it just to do something interesting to some researchers. Bell used this new technology, and the transistor went on to utterly revolutionize the world.

        Making up a new OS and keeping it locked away in a research lab isn't useful; it's a colossal waste of time. It doesn't matter how good it is if you're not going to do anything wit
      • by MP3Chuck (652277) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @08:43PM (#17139792) Homepage Journal
        Well ... I wouldn't count it out yet. Singularity is only 3-ish years old. In fact, from what I understand they only recently reached the stage of having an interactive command line [msdn.com]. IANA Computer Scientist, but I'm sure it's got a long way to go before even its base concepts are suitable for mainstream use. Hell, there's not even any clue as to whether development of Singularity into a mainstream OS would even be feasible.

        Not to mention there would be an absolutely massive paradigm shift involved in moving from Win32/64 to a platform like Singularity...
    • by metlin (258108) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:23PM (#17137792) Journal
      Makes their lack of innovation all the more remarkable.

      Heh, do you even *know* what the hell you are talking about? Maybe you should try looking at some of the ACM SIG* or IEEE publications in the various fields related to CS.

      MSR produces some of the best CS research in the world. Just because their work does not percolate down to the products and services teams at MS does not make MSR lack any innovation.

      In fact, if you look into most areas, MSR has made some very cutting edge and valuable contributions.

      Maybe you should have a look at the list of publications they have put out since 2000 [microsoft.com].

      Do not confuse research with development. Then again, given that this is Slashdot, blind and ignorant Microsoft bashing is welcome, even if the person bashing it has absolutely no clue whatsoever.

      Nice.
      • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @09:30PM (#17140258)
        >>Just because their work does not percolate down to the products and services teams at MS

        So msft spends gobs of money, hiring huge numbers of researchers to do all kinds of research. Msft invents all kinds of stuff. Then msft just throws all of that away, and steals ideas from other companies?

        Makes perfect sense to me.
    • by s20451 (410424)
      Makes their lack of innovation all the more remarkable.

      Really? [google.com] Or are you just talking out of your ass?
    • by coaxial (28297)
      From what I understand about MSR from those that work there is that MSR does do some pretty interesting things. MSR does do good research. However, MSR has a hard time getting MS management to put their ideas into products. For instance, MSR is supposed to have some new approaches and algorithms for MSN Search. Approaches that the research showed actually work with real world data and queries. But MSN Search is slow to put them in.

      MSR's lack of product development is interesting and, but it doesn't app
  • look down at MS precisely because it tosses about the word "innovation". The way they toot their own horn, you think they hired marching band. The word seems to be used in the most disappropriate way, where they actually copied the features. And they used that damn word so much and so often, it becomes nearly meaningless.

    That alone overshadows everything else they do, including stuff that may actually be innovative.
  • by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylan AT dylanbrams DOT com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:11PM (#17137618) Homepage Journal
    I wish it could. I'd be really brilliant by now......

    I'm not knocking the individuals working for Microsoft, it's just that there comes a point in the lifespan of a company where it's past its prime. Getting a truly 'new' product far enough to the front is a gargantuan task, that ends up requiring patents and huge investment because the entire process is so slow.

    Let's just compare Apple and MS here for a second. Apple pulls stuff into the mainstream that's pretty new once in a while. They seem to enjoy it. It's been really profitable. But some of the stuff they do is so new that noone can really catch up until it's too late. (see: iPod, good UI, 'stylish' design)
    BR Somehow, Apple listens to new ideas, where Microsoft attempts to implement old ones and takes flack for never getting it exactly right. One wonders where this cultural issue is in M$, and what makes the difference between the two. But that's only an academic question.
    • I'm not knocking the individuals working for Microsoft, it's just that there comes a point in the lifespan of a company where it's past its prime?

      I think this statement is a little misleading, depending on what you mean by "its prime". Possibly, there comes a point in the life-span of a company where it's original business model no longer works, or when it becomes too bloated. Lots of things happen, but under good management, a company can shift, retool, and stay successful. Nintendo didn't always make

  • In case you did not know, MSR also is involved in the field of quantum computing. See http://stationq.ucsb.edu/index.html [ucsb.edu].
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      Okay, that scares the holy fsck out of me. I really don't want any of the quantum bits entangled with my person to be affected by some quantum bits that are currently doing a BSOD!!
  • You can put 22" rims onto a Pinto or Corvair but that won't make anybody want one. Similarly, you can hire all the PhDs you want, but if you can't produce products that are secure, stable, or even responsive, then it just doesn't matter. I came into work today to see signs posted saying "MS patches are being deployed. Your PC may ask to reboot itself."

    Additionally, you need smart people throughout the company. Xerox PARC had a lot of brains and made world-changing products decades ago but it didn't do them
  • I've read a lot of research papers for computer science, especially in the areas of databases and networking. I've developed the bias that the papers from researchers at companies, rather than universities, tend to suck. They tend to use a lot of column space talking about what commercial tools they employed, be a little heavy on unhelpful graphs, etc.

    I don't know what leads to this trend, but I'm pretty sure it's there and I now cringe when I have to read a paper from corporate authors. THAT'S one reaso
    • by cnettel (836611)
      While this is true in some cases, there are lots and lots of purely "academical" papers that are also a combination of buzz-word dropping and references. In the field of NLP, it's certainly not true. Just look at Brown et al's original paper on the IBM-1 translation model (the name was coined quite some time after the original article), or for that matter what one can find from Microsoft Research in this area. Maybe some journals feel the urge to get more in touch with "practical applications" and are there
    • Oh, that's so unfair. Go look at this little bunny I wrote last year [hp.com], pointing out the entire Web Service SOAP stack and its belief in seamless mapping between Java/C# and XML was a load of fundamentally unachievable bollocks.

      When I was at the IEEE conf presenting it (and getting best paper, BTW), I had to put up with three days of academics stuck in the depths of their little web service, none of whom seemed to step back and notice that what they basing their work on was junk. Instead they were using A

  • by stox (131684) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:26PM (#17137844) Homepage
    For all the money M$ spends on Research, they sure don't have that much to show for it. Look at the productivity of IBM's R&D compared to M$. One of these days they may figure it out, but until then I am not terribly impressed.
  • that all these touchy feel-good articles always come out in praise of Microsoft when there is a major product release? Does anyone else think it to be too much of a coincidence?
  • for all those people they pay for, they could be pumping money into actually making Windows a usable and enjoyable product.

    Or maybe MSR are scamming microsoft as much as microsoft marketers are scamming the world.

    A few random MSR scams:

    - "hey Wordperfect are making lots of money selling a word processor, let's make our own."

    - "hey, over 50% of Sony's global profits are from a games console. let's make our own."

    - "hey Apple came up with this fancy MOV movie container format. let's make our own."

    - "hey Apple
    • by westlake (615356)
      or all those people they pay for, they could be pumping money into actually making Windows a usable and enjoyable product.

      usable and enjoyable for whom? the Geek? or the non-technical end user?

  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:42PM (#17138126)
    MS does innovation besides the stuff at Microsoft Research.

    I got this from a post to Scoble's blog last week:
    Check out the December 3, 2006 entry at the XNA blog, entitled "XNA Game Studio Express and the DEMMX Awards" [msdn.com].

    Turns out that Microsoft's XNA won two categories at last week's DEMMX Awards [demmx.com]:
    Best of Show: Innovator of the Year
    Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express (Microsoft Corporation)

    Game Innovation of the Year
    Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express (Microsoft Corporation)


    Speaking of XNA (a framework allowing normal folk to make Windows and Xbox 360 games (without the need for a devkit), a great video of it was released last week at Channel 9:
    http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=2612 54 [msdn.com]
    The video shows coding, debugging, and deployment of Xbox 360 games using XNA. Although XNA uses C# managed code, one of the sample games shown in the video, XNA Racer, runs at 1080p 30fps with 2x antialiasing.
    It's a very cool video. Beyond anything you'd see from Apple, Google, et al.

    The notion that Microsoft does no innovation is nonsense.
  • They hired the whole Mach OS team apart from Tevenian who went to NeXT and David Black who was at the OSF. Anyone ever hear of those guys again? They certainly haven't done anything earth shifting since MachOS. I heard from one of the team who was on the Cairo project at the time that he was being paid to do very little and was there not to work for anyone else. Still they all got very rich.
  • by Larry_Dillon (20347) <{dillon.larry} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:45PM (#17138162) Homepage
    If M$ research has a to fight an up-hill battle, it's because Microaoft has lied in so many ways in the past. Especially when it comes to innovation. From DOS to Internet Explorer, Microsoft has had a habit of:

    1. Buying the second or third ranked player in a market segment.
    2. Rebranding it.
    3. Throwing their advertising dollars behind it.
    4. Calling it "Innovation."

    Worse is when they steal other's ideas and call it "Innovation." How many time have they been sued?

    I hope they are on the path to reform, but it will take a significant pattern of honest behavour before I believe what they say.
  • but given that Microsoft is one of the few companies with a monopoly, this primes them for real research, doesn't it? Many years ago when other tech companies had monopolies they invested a lot of hard cash into their research and development divisions, hiring many graduates and the like that were noted as being at the top (or potentially top) of their game. Now those monopolies are removed, the shareholders have kicked in saying that the research divisions were not generating enough of a profit margin an
  • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:15PM (#17138594)
    but who knows. All 'great things' the research has done and would have gone into Vista have been removed again. To many people that means that either research produces crap, because it can't be used, or the company does not give a shit about research.

    The fact that so much people are tied up in projects that will nog go anywhere does not realy help.

    research is only so great as to what it produces. If you have 1000 people working on it and nothing comes out of it, it was shitty research. If 3 people work on it and you invent sliced bread, or the next best thing, it was great.
  • The lab has spawned innovations seen today in products from Windows Vista to Exchange Server to Xbox 360.

    How is the Xbox 360 innovative? It's a machine that was designed for market penetration. There's nothing new or innovative whatsoever.

    Compare that to the Wii with it's innovative controller, and the PS3 with it's innovative architecture and cutting-edge technology.

    We should boycott these "innovations" until they *really* produce something innovative.

  • When the word 'innovation' is tossed about

    Not all innovations or innovators are good or benevolent.
    Perhaps Micro$oft can research this...

  • First and foremost, Microsoft is selling binary compatibility. If not for the virus problem, Microsoft would have to be considered the 5th or 6th best operating system available except for one thing; it runs all those existing Windows apps, and that is the only feature anybody really wants to buy from Microsoft. Any innovation which broke binary compatibility is therefore almost automatically ruled out, sometimes with disastrous consequences. The second problem is that the sort of innovations that Microsoft
  • by autophile (640621) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:38PM (#17138928)

    Microsoft Research! More computer science papers come out of us than from the top universities! We present them at numerous prestigious conferences around the world!

    Now, in partnership with Microsoft Marketing, we are proud to announce... Research4All!

    Yes, Research4All is a unique product designed to meet not only the needs of researchers around the world, but also the corporations that feed, clothe, and entertain them! For only $1299.99, you get access to three -- count 'em, three! -- research papers published by Microsoft Research! But wait, there's more!

    You may read each paper a total of five times, on a total of one computer! And if you should choose to purchase our Paper Edition (for an additional $499 charge), the ink will degrade after six months. And, as an added bonus, the paper is microprinted so that copying and scanning won't work! We are also working with graphics imaging and word processing vendors to recognize certain unique, secret, and patented characteristics of both the microprinting, as well as the sentence structure!

    Research was never this fun!

    --Rob

  • Numbers Don't Add Up (Score:4, Informative)

    by roca (43122) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @09:36PM (#17140312) Homepage
    I think the numbers quoted from the article here were bungled.

    > having hired 700 interns worldwide this year including
    > 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone,
    > which is roughly 21% of all the computer science PhD
    > candidates in the United States."

    http://www.cra.org/CRN/articles/may06/taulbee.html [cra.org]

    suggests around 1200 CS PhDs *awarded* in 2004-2005 in the USA and Canada. The number for the USA alone may be lower than this, but it might also be higher since 20% of departments surveyed did not respond. But assuming 1200/year is close to the mark, the number of "computer science PhD candidates in the United States" must be several times that, since a PhD takes several years and furthermore a lot of PhD students never complete their degree. I think an average of five years of studentship per PhD awarded would be a reasonably conservative estimate; then the 21% number quoted should be more like 4%.
  • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @12:26AM (#17141614) Homepage
    When the functional programming revolution hits the mainstream -- and it will very soon now as the current, C++ or Java way of developing software does not scale complexity-wise without requiring ever-increasing armies of Indians or Chinese to grind out the code -- Microsoft will be ahead of just about everybody else because they've retained the likes of Simon Payton-Jones and Erik Meijer to work in their research department. In fact, LINQ may just be the best thing to ever happen to functional programming because now that Microsoft is doing it, it becomes a legitimate enterprise programming activity.

    Microsoft is an 800-pound gorilla, but do NOT knock their research arm. Whatever it may have been in the past, these days there are definitely people doing interesting stuff at the very cutting edge of computing

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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