Memo from Ray Ozzie: New Lab Will Use Social Computing to Strengthen Microsoft Products

10/8/09Follow @gthuang

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, announced today the company is forming a new laboratory called Future Social Experience Labs, or FUSE Labs, which will focus on aspects of “social computing” beyond just communication and collaboration. The move is part of a wider restructuring of Microsoft’s labs: FUSE Labs is a merger between the Creative Systems Group at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA; Rich Media Labs; and Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA. As part of the announcement, Ozzie said Reed Sturtevant, the founding managing director of Startup Labs for the past two years, is leaving the company to pursue other interests.

FUSE Labs will be led by Lili Cheng, a 14-year Microsoft veteran who most recently headed the Creative Systems Group and previously managed the user experience teams for Windows Vista. Before joining Microsoft, Cheng worked at Apple Computer in the human interface-advanced technology group, where she worked on QuickTime VR and QuickTime Conferencing products. Cheng is now general manager of FUSE Labs (in Redmond) and will report directly to Ozzie. “I’ve known Lili for many years, and have long been impressed by her vision and ability to create; to engage yet to also inspire; to lead; to make tough choices; to deliver,” Ozzie said in a memo to Microsoft staff.

Ozzie said he has “refined the missions” of Microsoft’s labs, in part because of “changing business conditions.” From his memo, it sounds like the goal of the new lab is to apply research in social computing (things like user interfaces, social networks, and human behavior) to help develop new products in the areas of entertainment, productivity, and teamwork—as well as to explore how Microsoft can extend the ways people use computer operating systems.

“The three groups being combined have concrete skills and code in areas where ‘social’ meets sharing; where ‘social’ meets real-time; where ‘social’ meets media; where ‘social’ meets search; where ‘social’ meets the cloud plus three screens and a world of devices,” he said. (See more on Ozzie’s three-screen vision here.)

It also sounds like the reorganization is meant to focus the impact of social computing research more immediately on the company’s product pipeline. “FUSE Labs will bring more coherence and capability to those advanced development projects where they’re already actively collaborating with product groups to help them succeed with ‘leapfrog’ efforts,” Ozzie said in his memo. “Working closely with [Microsoft Research] and across our divisions, the lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company’s extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity.”

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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  • S.H.Basse, Bornholm, Denmark

    The spectacular lack of success with innovation in Microsoft and other big coorporations is due to the prevailing primitive approach to the exchange of valuable new ideas.
    To put the present situation for the exchange of ideas and other non physical achievements into a wider perspective one can draw historic parallels to the conditions for the exchange of physical goods in e.g. the Homeric period of Greek history or in Europe at the time of the Vikings. On a Viking raid the Vikings robbed others goods when they had the upper hand, traded on a neutral beach when the opponent was of equal strength, and fled as fast as possible when the opponent was of superior strength. It was more prestigious to rob than to trade so the Vikings bragged about their robbing and killing during the long winter nights when they sat at the long table drinking beer.
    The Vikings way of trading was obviously very inefficient, and it was first when the European societies had established firm laws for the exchange and ownership of goods and had police and military to protect and enforce these laws, that trade expanded faster and faster and led to the modern societies and the efficient way of trading that exists today.
    Unfortunately the exchange of novel and valuable ideas are still on the same level today as was the exchange of physical goods at the time of the Vikings.
    As long as the big cooporations continue to hackle and bully the creative innovators in stead of offering them firm and fair conditions and a fixed percentage of
    the proceeds derieved from their innovations, as long will small nimble firms continue to outperforme the big corporations.
    In house innovation will always be outperformed by the multitude of creative individuals outside!