Microsoft, PayPal, Ford, & Facebook: Boston Tech Tidbits

1/12/12Follow @gthuang

Some big-company-related news to report in the Boston area. Let’s get right to it.

Microsoft Research New England has made three new hires in its social media research group, joining danah boyd. They are professors Nancy Baym from the University of Kansas (specializing in personal connections and online communities); Kate Crawford from the University of New South Wales (mobile media and youth culture); and Mary Gray from Indiana University (youth sexuality and digital media).

—Speaking of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), the software giant is working with Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), Watertown, MA-based BlueMetal Architects, and Boston mobile-health firm Healthrageous to do research on extending health management to people’s vehicles. The companies are building a prototype system that collects biometric data and sensory information from a car that can be uploaded to a person’s health and wellness database.

—PayPal, the subsidiary of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), is looking to add staff in the Boston area, according to a report by the Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner. The report says Scott Thompson, formerly president of PayPal and incoming CEO of Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO), visited Boston last fall to discuss PayPal’s expansion in the area. PayPal, which may or may not get spun out by eBay (I’ve heard rumors), acquired Boston mobile firms Where and Fig Card last year. Thompson, a Raynham, MA, native and Stonehill College alum, was also a board member of Vertica, the Boston-area big-data company acquired by HP (NYSE: HPQ) last year.

—My colleague Curt Woodward spoke with Facebook engineering director Jay Parikh about the social network’s ongoing upgrades to its technical infrastructure. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because Parikh is an eight-year-plus veteran of Cambridge, MA-based Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM). He served as a vice president of engineering for the Web content-delivery firm from 1999-2007. No word on why Facebook hasn’t set up an engineering center in Boston yet.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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