March 1, 2006 5:55 PM PST

Ideas on display at Microsoft's TechFest

REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft researcher Mike Sinclair wants to teach cell phones to dance.

By holding two phones together and briefly moving them in the same way, Sinclair said, the phones can generate an encryption key that will let them share data in a way that even a determined snoop nearby would not be able to intercept.

There are millions of cell phones out there with Bluetooth wireless technology, ideally allowing for all kinds of ad hoc connections. However, security concerns, as well as the difficulty of creating sharing "profiles," mean that few of these hookups ever take place.

Raman Sarin, a software design engineer in Microsoft's research unit, wants to solve the same problem but has a different approach. His idea, dubbed "Blue Rendezvous," is to have the users of two Bluetooth-enabled phones press the same button to signal that they want to talk to each other. Once that connection is established, the people can then send whatever information they like to each other: business cards, photos and the like.

Separately, both Sarin and Sinclair were pitching their ideas to Microsoft's product units as part of TechFest, a two-day internal science fair that runs through Thursday at Microsoft's headquarters here.

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Though such overlap might be seen by some as waste, Microsoft researcher Bill Buxton believes allowing for it is a good idea. Buxton, who joined Microsoft just this past December, says he's encouraged seeing researchers working in similar areas--that means the idea is more likely to become a reality sooner rather than later. He notes that entirely new ideas, like the mouse, take decades to make it to market.

Buxton, the former chief scientist for Alias Wavefront and a TechFest newbie, said he was impressed by the technology on display but was more pleased to see the looks on the faces of the thousands of Microsoft product unit workers who strolled through the booths.

"You need this period to help raise your head," Buxton said. It sends the message to workers that "I'm not going to be (just) fixing bugs in Windows 10.0 or Windows 20.0."

Buxton said that he's convinced such efforts will bear fruit and that he was impressed with what he saw. "I'm convinced in 10 years people are going to say 'When is Apple going to come out with this? When is Google going to come out with this?'"

Unit's growing importance
Microsoft's research unit, now at 700 people, has become increasingly important to the software giant, which is in the throes of competition with both of the companies Buxton mentioned, as well as others.

When Microsoft found itself behind on search after years of underinvesting, it was the research unit that allowed the company to at least try to get back in the game. Though MSN had outsourced most of its search work, the research unit had continued to delve into new areas, including desktop search and approaches to improve Web search relevance.

"We stepped in and we had many components," said Henrique Malvar, director of Microsoft's Redmond lab, the largest of Microsoft's five research facilities. "They were very glad."

CONTINUED: Why it's good to fail…
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32 comments

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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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