MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., October 15, 1999 — Paul McCabe’s first office at WebTV Networks was, appropriately, a garage.
“This was in our early days in Palo Alto,” recalls McCabe, now the director of advanced partnerships for consumer products. “We were in an old BMW dealership, in the repair facility with oil drains on the floors.”
That was three years ago. In the short but intense period since, WebTV brought the Internet to television with its groundbreaking products. The company was acquired by Microsoft in 1997, and along the way, the staff moved twice.
Through it all, there’s been one constant — cramped offices. “At one point we had three people to a cubicle. Some people built lofts for storage or sleeping,” said McCabe.
WebTV’s employees continue their push to converge entertainment and information, but now at least one problem is behind them. Microsoft’s new 32-acre, 515,000 square foot Silicon Valley campus opened this month, and for McCabe and more than 150 co-workers, being at work no longer means suffering from the area’s chronic space crunch.
“Our new building is great,” said McCabe. “We have private offices but the environment is good for sharing and collaboration. And the industrial design is very nice.”
Today, only one of the campus’ five buildings is ready for use, with WebTV being the first occupant. But by the end of the year the site will be filled with about 1,400 employees who are now scattered across the region, including employees from Microsoft’s Graphics Product Unit, Macintosh Internet Products Group, the Silicon Valley Developer Center and Hotmail.
The campus will feature many employee-focused amenities, including a company store and employee library. But the new campus also gives Microsoft a way to better serve thousands of Microsoft partners and customers in Silicon Valley.
“Microsoft has been in the valley for 18 years,” said Larry Cohen, the Developer Relations group manager who will oversee the Silicon Valley Developer Center, which will provide resources and technology for more than 4,000 local independent software vendors (ISVs).
“Some people don’t realize how deeply rooted we are here. The driving factor behind this campus is efficiency, and it will offer many benefits — both internally and externally,” he said.
Microsoft decided last year to make the investment in a new campus because “we arrived at a point where it made sense to have a large-scale infrastructure,” said Microsoft Human Resources Vice President Chris Williams. “We want a critical mass of knowledge and innovation, as well as a critical mass of facilities.”
The campus will make it easier and more effective for teams to work together, and will aid in key functions like recruiting, usability testing, and new employee orientation. It should make the stress of working in a garage only a distant memory, but it’s also designed to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit that infuses a Silicon Valley startup.
“One thing we’re working hard to do is to ensure that the important pieces of the cultures of these companies and these groups remain active, visible, and alive,” Williams said.
For Kenji Armstrong, who oversees WebTV’s Licensee Engineering Management group, the campus means less wasted time traveling between buildings. It also says something important about how Microsoft views Silicon Valley.
“One of the big fears that many people had here was, ‘When are they going to move us to Redmond?'” Armstrong said. “By making this investment, the company is making a big statement about its commitment, and that’s great. I grew up in Northern California and I love being in the center of high tech. It would be hard to get me to leave.”