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Microsoft Research Fights Critics

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the easy-things-to-fix-that-corporate-overlords-don't-want-to-do dept.

Microsoft 361

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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361 comments

deservedly (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137352)

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:deservedly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137512)

The same could be said for Bell Labs.

Perhaps someday something will come out of MSR that people will admire and remember long after they forget about the negative details of MS business practices....

Re:deservedly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137664)

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.
Anyone else find it amusing that he selected Bell Labs as the "good" research company?

Re:deservedly (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137720)

well "evil" if you wish then, but theres no denying they did quality research.

Re:deservedly (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137924)

Anyone else find it amusing that he selected Bell Labs as the "good" research company?
I'm no fan of Ma Bell, but don't tar Bell Labs with that brush.

Admittedly, their free-flowing research money derived as much from the fact that the FCC counted the Labs into the cost basis for AT&T's profits (in other words, they made a profit on every dollar spent). That said, however, they did have a nearly blank check to do Really Amazingly Cool Research without Corporate demanding that it all pay off in the next quarter.

Their like will not be seen again for a long time, and we're all the poorer for it.

Re:deservedly (2, Insightful)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137700)

>>> having hired ..... 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone..."

But will M$FT listen to a damn thing they have to say?

Re:deservedly (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137706)

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 (5, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138158)

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.

Re:deservedly (4, Insightful)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137982)

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.

Re:deservedly (4, Insightful)

ewhac (5844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138036)

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:deservedly (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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:deservedly (2, Insightful)

arniebuteft (1032530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138152)

>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:deservedly (1, Troll)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138200)

...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!)

Nothing a punch in the ass won't fix (0, Flamebait)

AssCork (769414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137362)

You filthy nerd fucks.

Not a Huge Surprise (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137390)

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.

Re:Not a Huge Surprise (0, Offtopic)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137784)

Sociologists ??? You want them to hire Tom Cruise?

Re:Not a Huge Surprise (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137882)

Sociologists ??? You want them to hire Tom Cruise?
If it will stop him from making movies, yes.

Plus than 99% of my rants on things I hate can be rolled into one as I curse Tomsoft Microcruise and all his horrible religiomonopoliness. I want my open source alcoholism back, damnit!

Are they really that interesting (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137394)

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:Are they really that interesting (2, Insightful)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137480)

Maybe its all of the above?

And what would be wrong with any of those options for a PhD student?

Re:Are they really that interesting (0, Flamebait)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137588)

Well most Computer Science PHDs can't program worth shit. They probably cant teach. So what is left... Work for Microsoft R&D. Where you get paid, get all the all the glory and credit of being a R&D, without having to ever produce something. Just come up with something from Star Trek and come up with some forumlas and check to see if they work. If not make a new formula.

Re:Are they really that interesting (4, Interesting)

ntropic (586259) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137926)

It might come as a surprise to you but one doesn't get a Computer Science PhD to learn how to program, rather one does so to figure out what to solve with a program (unless you are working on Software Engineering).

I have a close friend who joined Microsoft Research last year after his PhD (which included interning there). He also had an offer from Google and a couple of hedge funds. His reason for taking MSR was that Microsoft, for all it's image does actually allow the MSR guys to pretty much do what they want to explore instead of forcing a direction driven by a profit making application of that work. This results in much research not ending up in products (so you don't see it), but doesn't stifle the people working there. This came as quite a surprise to me but when I look at some of the papers the groups in MSR have published, I wonder how far from the truth that is.

oh and BTW, they were paying a good 0.6x higher than Google so that would account for some of those PhDs.

Re:Are they really that interesting (1)

RichMeatyTaste (519596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137594)

Have you even browsed the site?

http://research.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com]

Google touchlight display for starters, it is one of my favorites.

Re:Are they really that interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137668)

money money money, money. Keeps them from going somewhere else too. Wow, I wonder what Coopers and Peters are doing? Don't know if they were PhD'ed but they were purchased just to keep their JAVA software off the market. Just like Dimension-X and dozens of others.

PhDs (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137452)

CS PhDs? No wonder they don't get anywhere.

Re:PhDs (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137812)

I personally like google's recruitment thru challenge questions. It's certainly better than the resume method.

Well, perhaps it might be... (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Well, perhaps it might be... (0)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137632)

Maybe its because a lot of the stuff they are working on is incorporated into existing products?

Nah it's just Microsoft so lets blindly bash them

When is the last time Apple came up with something original? iPod? nope, they bought that, iTunes? Same, MacOS X? Same... I can go on and on...

Re:Well, perhaps it might be... (1, Troll)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137914)

Maybe its because a lot of the stuff they are working on is incorporated into existing products?

Like what? Can you name even one thing that they've incorporated which would require a giant research department? I haven't seen a single thing in any of their products that wasn't either obvious or copied from a competitor.

Nah it's just Microsoft so lets blindly bash them

It's not blind bashing when their comments have substance to them, unlike yours.

Re:Well, perhaps it might be... (1)

abradsn (542213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138364)

Maybe you haven't used many of their products or you take all of the features for granted. I would be dumb not to admit that they don't rely heavily on previous work, but there *was* a lot of innovation that came out of their research and development. Some of the ideas didn't work out for the best, but they led to concepts that work well enough.
For example: Plug and Play might not work as it was intended, but at least now you can get a system that will work. I can add or remove a hard drive or a video card, or whatever, and the kernel doesn't panic. It just find the new hardware and chugs happily along.

Re:Well, perhaps it might be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137636)

That's right... They never wrote BASIC for the Altair 8800.

They also, unlike every other company, took Apple seriously when they released the Mac.

Or was it the other way round...

 

"research" (3, Insightful)

MECC (8478) | more than 7 years ago | (#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" (5, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:"research" (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138322)

Ah, /., where a disparaging comment about a Microsoft group that isn't MSR in a discussion about MSR gets "insightful" mods instead of troll, flamebait, or offtopic, and a true comment defending MSR gets modded flamebait.

BTW, by "Say what you like about MS in general, but MSR publishes more good research than many (probably even most) university CS depts" I'm not trying to disparage universities either; MSR is a lot bigger than any School CS dept., so this only stands to reason. (Also, my closest connection to MSR is that one of the other members of my research group had an internship there.)

It depends on what they do (1)

Mark of THE CITY (97325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137476)

Xerox PARC had creative types by the bushel, and we know how little the "copier mafia" in the company paid attention to it. What a gain for Silicon Valley, and the broader world; what a loss for, as my uncle called it, Zoorox.

Re:It depends on what they do (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137736)

the difference is, you will be hard pressed to find a company who can hire these people away from Microsoft. In the Xerox/PARC days, alot of those people went to other companies to move the tech forward. It would be interesting to see what multiplier Microsoft uses to set these guys/gals pay scales. My guess, somewhere around 4x.

LoB

what critics? (4, Informative)

idlake (850372) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:what critics? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137622)

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***

Re:what critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137968)

***awaits some stupid comparison to Hitler***
Hitler was missing a ball. MS's CEO is Ballmer.
Hitler's dick was micro and soft. MS's name is Microsoft.
Hitler took the hard work of the devil, and made it his own. MS took the hard work of BSD, and made it it's own.
Hitler killed Jews. Microsoft kills GNUs.
Hitler made a deal with suicidal, self-sacrificing Japan. Microsoft made a deal with Novell.

And oddly enough, while Hitler killed millions in his quest for power, Microsoft (er, Gates) has saved millions by monoplizing the OS market, being anti-competitive, suing and cheating competitors out of business, and grossly overcharging American businesses and the middle/upper class for inferior products, and then starting vaccination programs that have single-handedly lowered the infant-mortality rate in Africa... I wish they would get the message and start acting evil, rather than fulfilling the pipe dreams of closet socialists such as myself... MS is the greatest wealth redistributor of our age.

Re:what critics? (2, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138016)

So you're saying it's ok to lie, cheat, and steal as long as you give a small portion of the money to charitable causes?

How about if I steal your car, and donate the spare tire to Goodwill? Does that make it ok?

Re:what critics? (2, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138382)

Interesting that, on Slashdot, you can't use "steal" to refer to hypothetical losses by copyright holders due to infringement because it's not really stealing, but you can use "steal" to refer to hypothetical losses by competitors due to monopolistic practicies even though it's not really stealing.

(Sorry, I'm sorta cynical towards /. groupthink today...)

only hired to keep away from other companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137524)

wasn't there some inside document which stated Bill Gates' concern the bright minds would be outside of Micrsoft? Concidering what comes out of their R&D department, it looks like all these PhDs are working on an MS Etch-A-Sketch and nothing more. Ok, they did re-invent Apples/Woz's multi-pixel rendering technique and call it MS ClearType or something like that. Oh boy.

21% of PhDs created a dancing paper clip? (0, Flamebait)

Bamafan77 (565893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137526)

No wonder Bill Gates is trying to get Congress to loosen up restrictions on importing labor. :)

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137674)

That title is the whole truth about MS research and innovation. Classic.

Thanks. I'll hide my other shirt... (2, Funny)

Bamafan77 (565893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137900)

"I pwn Steve Jobs" probably won't fly too well around here either. :)

Relax people, they're (bad) jokes!

MS research (2, Informative)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137528)

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 ...

Re:MS research (1)

Viraptor (898832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137930)

There's a difference between being narcissistic and being popular by showind what you're doing. Google shows its beta products and takes them down if they're not working out. Microsoft will or will not publish Singularity for the next 5 years probably. I haven't heard of other projects listed.
Meanwhile, I've seen google groups beta, I've used beta of picassa to publish pictures and used tons of others google products before they reached production-ready state and when they were really poor in features. Now I'm testing google code projects even though they're can be described as alpha stage, not beta. Google also wrote some articles and explained what are they doing and what is planned.

Singularity? We've seen some ideas, some graphs, but where is the development now? What is planned release date (even if missed by +4 years). Do you know anything about Singularity? http://research.microsoft.com/os/singularity/ [microsoft.com] here are the same informations provided in articles over and over again - nothing new - only that it's managed and will improve access rights and is based on microkernel - NOW THAT'S SURPRISING!

Re:MS research (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137934)

Wow, Google are more open to the community, and you still manage to put a negative spin on it!

Re:MS research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138088)

really they are more open? where exactly do I download these "open" programs of theres? Google are extremely closed, they open nothing, I don't think there is a single project within google I would call open

Re:MS research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138172)

> I don't think there is a single project within google I would call open

No?

http://code.google.com/ [google.com]

Re:MS research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137960)

The main problem with Microsoft "research" is that its output gets copyrighted and/or patented. That means they're stealing from us all. Everything they discover is deliberately foreclosed from the rest of us. Personally, I'd rather be free to do my own research.

A patent only allows you to stop other people doing stuff. It's immoral. Microsoft researchers may be content to take their paycheck, but they're destroying western civilisation.

Nonsense (1)

h2_plus_O (976551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138254)

That means they're stealing from us all. Everything they discover is deliberately foreclosed from the rest of us.
It's hardly theft when you never had it in the first place.
Everything they discover was unavailable to you in the first place- otherwise it wouldn't be a discovery, it would be a use of your prior art. Patents don't foreclose in perpetuity the benefits of an invention- they merely grant a limited monopoly on the right to sell or dispose of the work. They incentivize invention, even though they may discourage (at the patent holder's discretion) others from producing derivative work.

Personally, I'd rather be free to do my own research.
You are.

Wow, 21%...? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137532)

I think I'm going to tag this article "assimilation".

hypocrites (0, Offtopic)

justkarl (775856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137534)

I want to know why so many Slashdotters behold XBOX as a major technological innovation but shun Microsoft when Windows is mentioned. Here's one that uses Windows at home and loves it.

So you're a fanboi wanker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137730)

I've never heard either XBOX presented as an innovation, they're both basic PC's. The IBM in-order PPC cores in the 360 would be interesting to play with, but other than that there's nothing.

Re:hypocrites (1)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138304)

"I want to know why so many Slashdotters behold XBOX as a major technological innovation but shun Microsoft when Windows is mentioned."

No one with a grasp of the gaming market considers XBox to be a major innovation of any sort. It's a copy of what came before, from a company that has to have its nose in everything. That's the only reason Microsoft had someone else create the XBox (don't believe for a second that Microsoft actually designed and built it).

Re:hypocrites (0, Flamebait)

Sgt_Jake (659140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138318)

n00b.

Where are the results? (2, Insightful)

xs650 (741277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137538)

"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 lack of innovation all the more remarkable.

Re:Where are the results? (2, Informative)

gvc (167165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137646)

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:Where are the results? (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137704)

> Makes their lack of innovation all the more remarkable

Not really when you realize that these 700 interns and 250 computer science PhD candidates have virtually no real world experience to guide them in their endeavors.

Re:Where are the results? (2, Interesting)

linguae (763922) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137740)

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 computer science for some time (Rob Pike talked about that in his "System Research is Irrelevant" talk back in 2000). However, Vista makes use of absolutely none of this technology, and Microsoft doesn't seem to want to incorporate any of this research in Windows at all.

MS can be so much better if they actually applied their research to Windows, its flagship product. But since Microsoft has already accomplished its goal, have 90% worldwide marketshare on operating systems, I guess it can get away with incremental improvements every half decade or so. It's not that Microsoft doesn't innovate, look at the research. That's innovation. It's that Microsoft doesn't want to capitalize its innovations and is content on sticking with its Windows (and Office) monopoly.

Re:Where are the results? (2, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138160)

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 with it. By contrast, Linux is very useful. It doesn't matter if many of the concepts are based on 40 years of Unix (your CPU is based on 60 years of semiconductor technology after all, and your car is based on 110+ years of automotive technology), it's proven to be a useful vehicle for creating new OS features (filesystems, schedulers, etc.) and then actually deploying them on a worldwide scale very quickly as regular people are able to download this software and try it out at will. Can I try out Singularity? No?

Re:Where are the results? (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137792)

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.

Re:Where are the results? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138120)

Quantity != Quality.

Sounds like you are one of the astroturfers that this article refers to.

Re:Where are the results? (1)

Tharkban (877186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138370)

Look, I don't like Microsoft as much as the next guy (actually, usually much more), but I have to admit, their research is good. I end up reading too many of their papers to be able to say anything else.

Re:Where are the results? (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137974)

Makes their lack of innovation all the more remarkable.

Really? [google.com] Or are you just talking out of your ass?

They *don't* really build this stuff (1)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137558)

FromTFA:

"Microsoft as an innovator is good for creating things behind the scenes but bad at bringing them to market."

Sums it up nicely.

Maybe a lot of people (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137598)

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.

Re:Maybe a lot of people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138044)

look down at Apple 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./blockquote

Microsoft suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137604)

Bell labs and Xerox PARC were great examples of incidental innovation, these companies weren't desperately trying to be innovative. The greatest innovations can also tend towards subversion, imagine Microsoft faced with a genuine innovation that challenged one of their existing profitable markets. Let's not forget that Microsoft think they can own every market.

Microsoft suck and Microsoft innovation is an oxymoron.

Totalitarian Software Company (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137612)

"21% of all the computer science PhD candidates in the United States."

Instead of having a market with CS people all over the place thriving they are scuddled into a very few corporations. I am not going as far as calling it communism BUT having everything in "one" basket or two is VERY dangerous.

Money Can't Buy Brains. (3, Insightful)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137618)

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.

Re:Money Can't Buy Brains. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138040)

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 its money off of video games and IBM wasn't always making its money from eCommerce consulting. Neither are as dominating in their respective fields as they once were, but neither company is failing.

But I think you're correct in your first statement, "money can't buy brains". More to the point, throwing money at the problem is rarely an effective solution. Calling it from the sidelines, I'd say that Microsoft has no shortage of resources, including the resource of intelligent people. The problem does seem to be cultural and managerial. It seems to me that the biggest difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Microsoft is suffering from a lack of vision and focus.

Schooling != Innovation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137660)

Great, and as soon as a PhD has -anything- to do with innovation M$ will finally start doing something different.

Prove it! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137702)

Prove it, in detail! I don't think you can! MS is the largest software company, but they are not "top" in any technological endeavor. Name one thing they have the ultimate best of, I dare you. Not the most used, the technically best there is, bar none, no dispute of note from anyone with a clue.

See, you can't do it! Go ahead, keep trying, you can't do it! There isn't a single "product" those people excrete out that is "top", I don't care how many Phds they waste in the process..

they *do* cool stuff: quantum computing anyone? (1)

dummkopf (538393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137754)

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] .

Re:they *do* cool stuff: quantum computing anyone? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137830)

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!!

The problem with Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137764)

Is not that it's not doing good work- it's that it doesn't change what the rest of the company does. Which is, to put it bluntly, produce crap products and use predatory monopoly practices to keep their obscene profit margins. This is not unlike AT&T/Bell Labs back in the day. Well, except AT&T's products actually *worked*.

Keyword: incubate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137774)

Take a young mind, put it in a cube and call it innovation. Riiight...

Bling bling! (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137778)

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 much good since no one knew what to do with them.

R and D are good, of course, but anyone interested in these types of things should read this [roughlydrafted.com] about Apple in the 1990s.

"These projects snowballed into horrific disasters that were so complex they could never be completed, but which also contributed highly touted features that were tightly woven into Apple's increasingly widening strategies. That made them impossible to deliver but difficult to kill."

Re:Bling bling! (1)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137892)

I don't know what world you live in, but Windows (in the Enterprise) continues to grow in the marketplace, proving that Microsoft DOES indeed make stable, secure and responsive products... If you honestly think that Windows Server 2003 can't do all of the above, I not only have a bridge to sell you, I will be more than happy to remove the blindfold you seem to have on rather tight.

How is Microsoft patching ANY different than any other OS patching? Mac's get patches, Linux get patches, and yep (at least in the case of the Mac) it needs to reboot too. Why is this someting people love to point fingers at Microsoft for when everyone else is just as "guilty". Do a little more research on WHY Microsoft reboots for some patches and get back to us m'kay?

Yet more proof that some people are much more intrested in bashing Microsoft than anything else...

Sequence (0, Offtopic)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137804)

First they ignore you,
then they fight you,

Hmmm -- does this mean we're at Stage Two?

Does published commercial research suck? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137814)

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 reason I look down my nose at MS research - it's corporate. Am I the only person who notices this trend?

Billions and Billions for what??? (2, Insightful)

stox (131684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137844)

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.

bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17137870)

I call bullshit. UW has 150 grad students in CSE. I really doubt there are only ~1200 computer science grad students in the US.

Re:bull (1)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138022)

You should learn the difference between a grad student and a PhD candidate...

interview with ex-ms-employees (1, Offtopic)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137922)

I saw an interview with 2 or 3 ex-ms-employees
they saied ms works like this:

- they hire young, clever coders
- use them up until they're burned out
- fire them

Why is it (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137932)

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?

How smart do we appear today? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17137958)

MS is a really old style company.
Science is just more propaganda tool to MS.
They ship a shrinkwrapped, known product over a generation.
MS main interest is protecting dominance in established markets and moving into new markets.
If MS needs 'computer science' or a new product they buy it off the shelf and sell it back to the market.
If the 'dreams' from the top are "knife the baby" and "cut off the oxygen supply" -
you work for 'just another' business.

damned lies and statistics (1)

gavinls (1036556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138004)

I find it hard to believe that Microsoft has 21% of CS PhD students in the USA, meaning that there are only 1000 of them in the country. The big schools, such as Carnegie Mellon and Champagne Urbana, have dozens. There are thousands of universities, and research institutions. The United States is the global leader in CS research (says me, a European), it cant be pulled of with 1000 PhD candidates. Maybe its true, but I urge caution in believing that statistic.

Microsoft vs IBM (1)

Alastair (3224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138012)

Basically, Microsoft are turning into something like IBM.

700 interns != 21% of all CS PhD candidates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138070)

I'm a PhD candidate in Computer Science at a relatively small school: UC Santa Cruz. Our web site currently lists 358 graduate students (MS and Ph.D.). I don't know what the breakdown is exactly, but if only 20% of them are PhD students (I think the percentage is higher than that, but I'm being cautious), that's 72 of the current graduate students. And you know the programs at MIT, CalTech, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Rice University, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, UCLA, UCI, UCSD, and so on must be at least as large. I'm sorry, there is no way there are only 3300 PhD candidates in CS in the US.

I'm not saying that MS is falsifying their numbers, just that the journalist who wrote the story may want to check their math.

what a waste of money (1, Troll)

spir0 (319821) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138080)

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 are selling a music player and have an online music store. let's make our own."

These alleged innovations from Microsoft are nothing more than their having an uncanny ability to review the current market leaders and imitating.

Or maybe we're just misreading their website. Maybe it really does say "imitations" and our minds are reading it as "innovations." Where are those psychologists?

Microsoft won two innovation awards just last week (3, Insightful)

I'm Don Giovanni (598558) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Mach OS Team... remember them? (1)

David Off (101038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138132)

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.

The boy who cried "Innovation" (2, Interesting)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138162)

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.

I'm certainly no expert with private enterprise, (2, Insightful)

kramulous (977841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138196)

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 and were a drain on the shareholders' dividends. Real research takes time.

What I mean is that since I work for a university, it is good for me. Those companies can throw a set amount of research dollars our way since we are basically research sweatshops. I admit that I don't like the idea of Microsoft and love to think of them as crippling the potential of a lot of users, but I applaud them for at least acknowledging the importance of research and taking an active part in their 'responsibilities'.

My two cents.

Microsoft isn't capable of creativity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17138282)

They are absolutely powerful and therefore, absolutely evil.

The real thieves aren't in jail, they're in big business.

No wonder (1)

Talahaski (711819) | more than 7 years ago | (#17138332)

700 interns, 21% of students just coming out of college with a Phd.

Where are the programmers with real-life experience. The ones who really know what it is really like.

Sounds like a big, overrun college to me, with professors who try to teach stuff they really don't know about, and students who soak up the crap. When time comes to work in a real environment, they fall apart.

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