What is Reed Sturtevant Up to in Microsoft’s Cambridge Development Lab?

6/30/08Follow @bbuderi

Back in September, we talked to former Eons chief technology officer Reed Sturtevant just before his first day on the job as the head of a special Microsoft advanced development lab opening in Kendall Square, right next to MIT and a stone’s throw from Google’s own lab. An update late last year brought the news that Sturtevant was set to make his first hires, but since then we’ve heard little else. Today, there is a bit more news from a Boston Globe article that says Sturtevant has hired roughly a dozen workers—on his way to 30 in the near term and much more if the lab proves a success—that are working on a variety of advanced concepts in areas including social networking, search, and organizing and prioritizing e-mail.

The lab, called the Boston Concept Development Center, is housed at One Memorial Drive, a 17-story luxury office building in which Microsoft has leased five floors. The building, for instance, already houses employees of the company’s SoftGrid unit (the new name for Softricity, a Boston firm acquired in 2006). It will also play host to the new Microsoft Research lab that Wade wrote about in February, which will be opening later this summer. (The facility will be the company’s first East Coast research lab and its third in the U.S.) Sturtevant’s team will be based on the 10th and 11th floors, which will be connected by a large staircase.

While Sturtevant still isn’t giving out a lot of detail, he told the Globe one of his team’s projects will focus on developing social-networking software to help families communicate and interact (speaking as the parent of two teenagers, I’ll take a dozen). Such software reportedly would work across computers and cell phones and, among other things, be able to track family members via GPS technology (not sure I want to know). The project seems to be part of a broader effort at the lab to investigate multi-device applications that improve social networking.

Another effort is aimed at e-mail overload—creating new ways of prioritizing e-mail, I gather so you don’t get too bogged down in what’s not that important. A third focus, according to Rob Weisman in the Globe, “will look for ways to improve search and ‘crowdsourcing,’ the same technologies that have been driving the growth of Google and Facebook.”

As we have previously noted, Microsoft has three large business divisions. Sturtevant’s lab will not be part of any of them, nor will it be part of the worldwide Microsoft Research organization. Instead, it will serve as a unit of chief software architect Ray Ozzie’s group. New Englander Ozzie and his brother, Jack (to whom Sturtevant reports), personally recruited Sturtevant. The three have known each other since their days at Lotus together in the 1980s.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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