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Head of MS Research On Special Projects, Google X and Win 9 71

Velcroman1 (1667895) writes "Microsoft Research finally earned some long-overdue headlines last week, when ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported on a 'Special Projects' group that would tackle disruptive technology and ultimately Google X. Peter Lee, head of the division and its 1,100 researchers, told Digital Trends he's not frustrated by all of that glowing press for Google's researchers and the lack of attention for MSR. 'Frustrating is not quite the right word,' Lee said, in an interview ahead of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for MSR's New York City office. 'I like Google X. The people there are good friends of mine. Astro [Teller, "Captain of Moonshots" with Google X] took classes from me at Carnegie Mellon, he's a great guy doing great stuff. But the missions are different. We want to make things better and ship them. That will always be primary for us. It will be secondary for them.'"
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Head of MS Research On Special Projects, Google X and Win 9

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  • Special Projects? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:42PM (#46944669) Homepage Journal

    Does the author know that "Special Projects" is corporate speak for "Taken off of primary responsibilities prior to being fired".

  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:59PM (#46944763)
    Is this the same team that killed the start button and moves all the options and settings around in a seemingly random manner for every version change of everything? At work users ask me "whats different in office 2013 vs the 2010 I was using?". They moved crap around so you have to find it again and they made it look a little different.
    • I was doing training today and had to help the new guy add our IT request mailbox to Outlook, and while it took me a few seconds to find where Account Settings in Outlook 2010 had been moves, once I got to the dialog, it was basically the same bloody window that had been there since at least Outlook 2000.

      • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

        Meh, it's not like Netscape/Firefox and Thunderbird haven't had their fair share of moving things around. And what's with Gimp splitting "Save As" out to "Save As" and "Export" so I have the extra step of having to cancel a useless dialog every time I want to save a png?

        • GIMP's choice of making "Save As" separate from "Export" was infuriating. Like MS Office ribbon bars, it was a step backwards in usability.Can anyone give me a good reason why all of the functionality of "Export" and "Save As" shouldn't be bundled into a single menu selection?

    • They have to figure out some way to convince you to buy the new one. That way they can say, well we deprecated the old version so you can't use that anymore (no patches or support) but hey! dont worry! we changed the graphics and moved some buttons around!

      Microsoft knows they can't survive by trying to sell you a BETTER Office Suite. Their only option is to move it to the cloud and convince you to pay every month for access.
      • Yes, the "cloud" is the best thing that ever happened to software companies. Adobe came up with the original concept of taking away software that you install on your own computer and making you run it on their servers instead. This prevents people from finding a version of their product that serves their needs and never upgrading. Now instead of trying to force you to upgrade by introducing critical bugs that interrupt your workflow (I've seen it done in person, not at Adobe but at other companies) they
      • They actually could survive by selling a better office suite. The fact is the changes made to their software aren't widely regarded as better. They'd sell a better OS if it was genuinely and provably simpler, faster more secure : better. The problem is the licensing the ham fisted lock in attempts and newer closed formats top prevent departing: I am looking at you Sharepoint!

        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          To be truthful, 90% of every version of Office since 4.3 has been wasted on 90% of end users. I do more complex things than most people, and I really can't justify using an office suite for something more complex than extracting data from a database and throwing it in a pivot table. Anything more than that really should be done with specialized tools. I'm not really sure what a "better office suite" would look like.

    • by EEPROMS ( 889169 )
      still hasn't got font scaling to work in Windows 8.*. Microsoft worries so much about the so called big picture that they cant fix simple things like making the fonts in their default apps auto size correctly. A great example is the weather app, in the hourly forecast section the text header reads as "Hourly Forec" were I should see "Hourly Forecast". It is little things like this that are making Microsoft look like fools when Apple do see these so called visual errors as being a serious fuck up. Guys fix
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:51AM (#46947319) Journal
      How on earth did this get moderated insightful? MSR is not the Microsoft UI group, it is a well respected research organisation. If you actually want to know what they're working on, pick up the proceedings of pretty much any top tier computer science conference and you'll see a couple of papers from them.
    • No, I think this is the team that showed us the Courier and told us not to buy an iPad because it would be out soon and would be sooo awesome.
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:05PM (#46944809)
    And those headlines were about vaporware? Decades go by and Microsoft never changes, ~~trying to compare Microsoft vaporware against the shipping products of competitors.....~~
  • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:11PM (#46944839)

    A bit condescending of an attitude for someone that is working at Microsoft, a company that is clearly on the wane. People don't go to Microsoft to create anything great. They go there for a stable income for their family and mortgage.

    • Microsoft has it's supporters. Smart people who are big fans of the company and want to see them win.

      And I say that as an Apple supporter. Maybe that's how I know these people exist.

      It's not necessarily the rule, but I know a lot of people raised during the tail end of the 90s who are huge Microsoft fans. In those days Apple was dying and Linux was non existent. Microsoft was helping create cell phones, computers, cars, pocket computers, and watches.

      To quite a few in that generation, they remember Microsoft

      • Certainly there are smart people who want MS to win, but they would be deliberately ignoring the concentrated efforts at doing anything to stifle free and open competition. SCO v IBM and the lawsuits and their current mirroring of FUD efforts against Android are primary examples. Attacking open source to promote closed proprietary products is bad for humanity.

    • I think Microsoft has done some great things, it's just by the time they get to market there are problems.

      Windows 8 has a superb tablet UI. If it had been left at that, with the tablet UI version of the OS shipped on tablets, and an unbroken desktop version shipped for desktops; or a core MVC API been implemented making it easy for developers to target both desktops and tablets acknowledging the completely different UIs and expected workflows then they did, we'd all be using it and Apple would be back in

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        This. I've worked on the MS campus quite a few times over the years and there are a lot of brilliant, dedicated people who work there. We didn't have a dedicated area to work in so generally set up shop in the common areas, and ended up overhearing a **LOT** of complaints about incompetent and clueless management. Dilbert-level stupid shit, guys who would give the PHB and Catbert a run for their money. Not to mention Ballmer's insane annual review process, which had team members volunteering to rotate t

      • Microsoft "technology" is actually pretty good. Their products largely do exactly what they promise, and the company hires and continues to hire out of the best and brightest tech talent pool.

        It's their marketing that causes so much trouble, anger and teeth-gnashing. Their marketing people are infamously out of touch, habitually rely on (dubious) focus groups, but they're in charge and they consistently end up compromising their products with gimmicks and irritants intended to attract revenue for not-mu
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:22PM (#46944919)

    We want to make things better and ship them.

    This is great! When did this new department start up?

    • That sounded odd to me too. MSR is really great at making things better, and MS is really good at completely ignoring everything MSR does when it comes to actually shipping products. It's fairly common to see research from MSR show up in open source projects years before MS notices it and incorporates it into a product. Apparently they've been trying to improve this for the last few years, but it's quite difficult to get researchers involved in technology transfer to the rest of the organisation without
      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        I ride both side of that fence. The problem for researchers is that in order to solve a research problem, you need to knock it down to something quite small that you can get some mathematical modeling behind it and prove its properties. To solve an engineering problem, you need to corral several different technologies and get them all to work together. There are very few small engineering problems in the sense of generating new products.

        You might think to model the engineering problems in mathematics. The p

  • by andydread ( 758754 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:25PM (#46944939)

    a 'Special Projects' group that would tackle disruptive technology

    "But the missions are different. We want to make things better and ship them. That will always be primary for us. It will be secondary for them."

    Well you should have fixed and released the Courier dual-screen tablet [] instead of cancelling it if you wanted to introduce disruptive tech no?

    • They did ship it, except it was called Surface Pro.

      And it didn't have two screens, it had one double density screen.

      I'm still confused about why they cannibalized their giant table-screen name for a new product, though.
    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      The Courier was MSR's project, but the rest of MS killed it. It's not a fault of Microsoft Research.
  • Close to the release of Win9, I swear they will once again begin hyping how this is "the biggest rewrite of Windows that we have ever seen", while it actually will be the same Win32-style base turbocharged, with some new tweaks applied and some others taped on the top.
    • 9 should be good.

      Remember, every other version of Windows is good.

      95? Shit. Crashed all the time. 98? Awesome. Transformative. Amazing. Me? Shit. Crashed all the time. XP? Amazing. Transformative. Vista? Shit. Crashed all the time. And there were internal memos leaked that exposed the fact it was intentionally difficult and frustrating to use. 7? Amazing. Transformative. 8? Shit. Didn't crash all the time, but fucking Metro. And now all the settings are in two different places, and every time you try
      • Transformative. (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

        verb [ with obj. ]
        1: make a marked change in the form, nature, or appearance of

        98, XP, and 7 were not transformative. Hell, they were all just minor changes from their prior releases:

        98 = 95 with IE stuck on
        XP = 2000 with Luna stuck on
        7 = Vista with a haircut

        If anything, the versions you're calling shit - even though I agree they were shit - were much more transformational:

        95 = Transformational jump from 3.x.
        (Me was shit an

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        If one ignores the consumer releases that rule doesn't hold up at all. Windows 3.11, Windows for Workgroups, was truly transformative in the work space. NT 3.51, with its domain structure, authentication, groups and NTFS was also transformative to the office network. NT 4.0 was a step up, but Windows 2000 server and workstation with Active Directory and Group Policies were also another giant leap forward. XP/Server 2003 and Server 2008 have been incremental, as has Win 7. I've so far been spared the an

  • they may just name windows 8.2 or 8.1 U2 windows 9 just to get rid for the bad taste of windows 8.

  • by the_other_chewey ( 1119125 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:45PM (#46945095)
    "We want to make things better and ship them." – That's an interesting quote.

    Over the last decades, I've seen some really amazing demos of things being worked
    on at MSR. Has any of it ever shipped? As a real product, I mean, not as some half
    done and by now abandoned proof of concept?
    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      "We want to make things better and ship them."

      One word: Vista. Years behind schedule with most big expected features cut.

      Two more words: Windows 8.

      Also: the original Surface. (Big-ass table.) Who thought that was worth shipping? (To the extent that it did.)

      Seriously, what planet is this guy on? "Better" and "shipping" don't belong in the same sentence when talking about MS. What was the last thing that was good and shipped anywhere near on time and wasn't a steaming pile on release day? Windows 2000? The MS

      • by mrxak ( 727974 )

        I've spent some time talking to guys who work at MSR. I believe they do want to make things better. I also believe they want to ship them. What I don't believe is MS management wants to make things better or ship anything that MSR comes up with.

        Maybe with the new CEO, things will change. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on the part of the MSR guys.

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        The guy was saying "research" when he meant "development". I doubt much development gets done at MSR beyond proof of concept. MS appears to lack an internal structure to do development starting at the output of MSR. And that might be due to marketing being too big for MS.

        If you think about it, marketing is naturally antagonistic to new ideas. They spend years developing markets for products. Being asked to downplay those markets and their sunk costs for something new which has no track record of producing b

    • Shipping something could also take the form of submitting a patent application, which they probably did.
    • "We want to make things better and ship them."

      Well, they could make things better for a lot of folks, if they would just start shipping Windows 7 again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      MSR have been responsible for a lot of advancements in graphics technologies (and not just in their own products). They have also done a heap around voice recognition and natural language. Then you have all the visual studio stuff they have contributed. I am sure if you go to the MSR website you will find a ton more, those are just the areas I am personally aware of.
    • didn't they create the intellimouse explorer (those were hot shit back in 1999.) as well as the natural keyboard?

    • Having worked in a research lab before (HP not MS), I really feel their pain with this one. Typically product divisions are completely consumed with making incremental improvements to existing products. Even if they do recognise the work you've done as strategic to their business they are often unwilling/unable to do anything about it.

      I think the best option for a research lab is to have a more formal marketplace for ideas. Product divisions can bid for an idea, but also ideas can be spun out into new buisi

  • I don't think the places where the use lot's of firewalls and disk encryption systems will just let systems upload documents to an MS powered cloud system where they may sell your data.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft Research built a space game better than Elite, Freespace or EVE Online before MMOs even existed. I miss that Microsoft Research.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      Not really. It's not because MSR wants to ship things that the rest of MS will actually allow them to do so. Unfortunately, they're entirely subservient to the corporate structure, which is ludicrously averse to just about everything that comes from their research arm. It's sad, really.
  • Windows 9, codename "Osborne"

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351