March 1, 2006 5:55 PM PST

Ideas on display at Microsoft's TechFest

(continued from previous page)

Microsoft worked quickly to bring efforts in neural networks from theory into practice in serving up relevant results for search queries.

"We were actually pleasantly surprised how much of the (research project) translated," he said, noting that the company's research projects are not always designed to scale.

But while he's glad to be of assistance, Malvar is also concerned that his researchers not be swayed too much by the desires of product groups and aim too low.

In a recent performance review of one of his researchers, Malvar scanned through a proposed plan for the coming years and decided that it seemed quite doable. But he sent the researcher back to the drawing board.

"We don't want too high of a batting average," he said.

His ideal researcher would have a batting average like a good baseball hitter. "If one out of three crazy ideas works, that's pretty good." But to be good at research, you have to fail more than you succeed. "If you don't do that, you are not trying hard enough to push the limits," Malvar said.

Still, Microsoft is doing more blending of research and product groups, and Malvar said that's probably a good thing. The company recently announced plans for "Live Labs," an effort that will further blur the lines between research and product development.

"I think it will work," Malvar said. He said Microsoft needs to be more nimble, and the research unit can provide a boost.

"Our ability to generate ideas and prototypes is not that bad," he said.

TechFest itself is designed to be a conduit between Microsoft's research and product teams. The shirts worn by the company's researchers make the point: "Techfest: The & in R&D."

When the idea for TechFest first came up several years ago, Microsoft Research boss Rick Rashid thought it was a bad one.

Six years later, he happily admits he was wrong. TechFest, now in its sixth year, has become a wildly popular event. More than 150 booths are packed into Microsoft's main conference center here, with more than 6,000 of Redmond's ranks either having stopped by or expected to stop by before the event concludes Thursday.

The booths run the gamut, but are centered on several areas of particular importance, including search and digital media technologies.

Some are clearly aimed at one product area, such as A.J. Brush's inkable digital calendar that aims to bring the handwritten home calendar and bulletin board into the digital age. Others were more systemwide approaches, such as the Stomp User Interface, designed to let people use their feet as a means of inputting text.

Microsoft researchers also used the event as a chance to sign up human guinea pigs for their latest projects. Richard Hughes was hoping to find Microsofties who were willing to try out his program, Pinpoint, which lets users track their willing friends and get e-mail alerts--say when a friend is nearby, or if their kids have left a 60-mile area.

If all goes well, Hughes will find enough willing participants to tell how well the software works and whether the privacy safeguards that are in place are sufficient.

"At least some people," he said, "think that it is pretty cool."

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32 comments

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Add your comment
Here's a pitch to the MS R&D department...
How about a secure product? Just one would be a good start.

Maybe an operating system that doesn't crash or need to be rebooted every day?

How about an e-mail application or server that doesn't pollute the Internet with viruses? Why is only Microsoft e-mail products spread viruses?

Why is it only Microsoft Office, not any other office suite, spreads macro viruses? It's been 10 years and you still can't fix that problem? How about fixing what you have, instead of adding yet more features 99.9% of us will never use?

Why is it every MS product intentionally breaks standards and compatibility with other products? Maybe you could research a fix for that?

I've got a barrel full of idea's where these came from, feel free to contact me.

--ABM
www.AnythingButMicrosoft.org
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've got an idea
How about you never post here again.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
Priceless....
.....simply priceless......
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Link Flag
Nice!
That's rich stuff, that post is!
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
Here's a pitch to the MS R&D department...
How about a secure product? Just one would be a good start.

Maybe an operating system that doesn't crash or need to be rebooted every day?

How about an e-mail application or server that doesn't pollute the Internet with viruses? Why is only Microsoft e-mail products spread viruses?

Why is it only Microsoft Office, not any other office suite, spreads macro viruses? It's been 10 years and you still can't fix that problem? How about fixing what you have, instead of adding yet more features 99.9% of us will never use?

Why is it every MS product intentionally breaks standards and compatibility with other products? Maybe you could research a fix for that?

I've got a barrel full of idea's where these came from, feel free to contact me.

--ABM
www.AnythingButMicrosoft.org
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've got an idea
How about you never post here again.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
Priceless....
.....simply priceless......
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Link Flag
Nice!
That's rich stuff, that post is!
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
Scared?
When Bill and the Boys start talking Google and Apple down we all know how scared they really are...
Posted by huddie klein (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What hole...
Have you been living in for the last 20 years or so! Last time I checked MS had about 60 Billion dollars to burn. Their biggest rival by far is Google, who has about 6 Billion to burn. I'm not saying that monetary value is the only measure of confidence in the market place, but it counts for a whole heck of a lot.

MS holds some 90% of the market share and you think they are scared! If MS were a bunch of pansies tip-toeing around the buisness computing world they would have never broken into the gaming industry. And believe me, I think Sony is the one who is scared right now, seeing there PS3 is a monstrosity right now. Sony cannot afford to absorb 4 Billion dollars on their console the way MS did on the original Xbox.

They say you can't just throw money at a problem and expect it to go away, but I'll bet if you bury it with money...
Posted by jwarren.carroll (84 comments )
Link Flag
Not scared...
just aware of the competition thats out there. The last time I checked competition is a very good thing.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
Scared?
When Bill and the Boys start talking Google and Apple down we all know how scared they really are...
Posted by huddie klein (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What hole...
Have you been living in for the last 20 years or so! Last time I checked MS had about 60 Billion dollars to burn. Their biggest rival by far is Google, who has about 6 Billion to burn. I'm not saying that monetary value is the only measure of confidence in the market place, but it counts for a whole heck of a lot.

MS holds some 90% of the market share and you think they are scared! If MS were a bunch of pansies tip-toeing around the buisness computing world they would have never broken into the gaming industry. And believe me, I think Sony is the one who is scared right now, seeing there PS3 is a monstrosity right now. Sony cannot afford to absorb 4 Billion dollars on their console the way MS did on the original Xbox.

They say you can't just throw money at a problem and expect it to go away, but I'll bet if you bury it with money...
Posted by jwarren.carroll (84 comments )
Link Flag
Not scared...
just aware of the competition thats out there. The last time I checked competition is a very good thing.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
700 brains??? And what to show for it?
It's a very good thing that Microsoft has money to burn, because the return on their R&D investment appears to be, well, zero. If anyone can name one outstanding, innovative idea or product that has resulted from all this research, please let us all in on it.
Posted by Norseman (1319 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Revenue. Profits. Marketshare.
Microsoft's innovation is the ability to turn ideas into cash. They make products that people actually want to buy - products that are more than just "innovative", but useful - all starting with an operating system that is both user-friendly and hardware independent.
Posted by just_some_guy (231 comments )
Link Flag
700 brains??? And what to show for it?
It's a very good thing that Microsoft has money to burn, because the return on their R&D investment appears to be, well, zero. If anyone can name one outstanding, innovative idea or product that has resulted from all this research, please let us all in on it.
Posted by Norseman (1319 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Revenue. Profits. Marketshare.
Microsoft's innovation is the ability to turn ideas into cash. They make products that people actually want to buy - products that are more than just "innovative", but useful - all starting with an operating system that is both user-friendly and hardware independent.
Posted by just_some_guy (231 comments )
Link Flag
MS's R&D show is a farce when they are guilty of stealing most technologies
Why put energy in to inventing something when you repeatedly get away with stealing ideas from other companies and individuals?
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Welcome to the business world
nt
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
MS's R&D show is a farce when they are guilty of stealing most technologies
Why put energy in to inventing something when you repeatedly get away with stealing ideas from other companies and individuals?
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Welcome to the business world
nt
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
morally ambiguous
So basically, the research and development is free for progenitors of the competition. and they get to act as "career councelors" for the inventors. This is a smart way to save of R&D but at the cost of seeming underhanded. it makes me think twice about buying products made in this manner.
Posted by phillipeb (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
morally ambiguous
So basically, the research and development is free for progenitors of the competition. and they get to act as "career councelors" for the inventors. This is a smart way to save of R&D but at the cost of seeming underhanded. it makes me think twice about buying products made in this manner.
Posted by phillipeb (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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