15 Years On, Microsoft Research Changing Face of Computing

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 26, 2006 — From wide-ranging enhancements for the upcoming Microsoft® Windows Vista™ operating system to data-mining innovations in SQL Server™ to powerful anti-spam filters in Microsoft Office Outlook®, Microsoft Research teams have delivered hundreds of product innovations to Microsoft Corp. customers since 1991. Today at an event marking the research organization’s 15th anniversary of turning ideas into reality, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates appeared on screen as Microsoft Research Senior Vice President Rick Rashid and leaders from academia and industry gathered at the company’s Redmond lab to recognize these successes and preview new areas where Microsoft Research continues to influence the future of computing.



Mark Emmert (L), president of the University of Washington, Emmert interviews Rick Rashid (R), senior vice president, Microsoft Research, at an event marking the 15th anniversary of Microsoft’s research organization, Redmond, Wash., September 26, 2006.

“From the beginning, Microsoft Research has provided an open, collaborative environment where the brightest minds in computer science can work together to tackle the hardest problems in computing and explore new ideas for reinventing the PC,” Gates said. “During the past 15 years, Microsoft researchers have contributed amazing breakthroughs and insights that have advanced the state of the art in dozens of technology fields. Their work is a clear reflection of Microsoft’s commitment to innovation.”

With more than 700 researchers at five laboratories worldwide, Microsoft Research contributes to Microsoft products as well as long-range technology advancements, often in collaboration with the academic community. Microsoft researchers have made a significant global impact on the collective knowledge of the greater software community, openly sharing their research findings and new discoveries by publishing more than 3,700 academic papers across 55 fields.

Technologies incubated in Microsoft Research have influenced nearly every Microsoft product released since the early 1990s. Microsoft Research made many contributions of technologies and overall design principles to the upcoming Windows Vista operating system. Microsoft Research developed methods and components that give Windows Vista the ability to anticipate a user’s actions and to use these inferences to speed up the system’s responsiveness. New desktop search technologies based upon prototypes developed at Microsoft Research allow Windows Vista users to locate anything stored on their computer with lightning quickness, and to unify the experience of searching the Web and the desktop. Another key contribution by Microsoft Research resulted in the development of Windows Media® Photo, a new format that will bring the quality of digital photos much closer to that of film and enable customers to put twice as many pictures on a memory card.

“I’m extremely proud that Microsoft has given our researchers unwavering support to relentlessly pursue virtually any realm of computing with no boundaries but the limits of their imaginations,” Rashid said. “Over the past 15 years, Microsoft Research has evolved into a diverse organization of not only computer scientists, but also psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and medical doctors working to develop innovative technology that will benefit people around the world.”

During today’s anniversary event at the Microsoft Research main lab in Redmond, lab director and Corporate Vice President Dan Ling moderated several demonstrations of the innovative technologies currently being developed by research teams around the world that will take computing to new levels of simplicity and usefulness. These include the following:

  • Visualization technologies that provide innovative ways to visualize and explore the world, such as combining maps from Windows Live™ Local with other maps of bus routes or bicycle trails to create entirely new hybrid maps

  • Streaming intelligence technologies that combine Web services, machine learning and sensors to help mobile devices make useful predictions and inferences, such as helping cell phones decide whether to interrupt users based on whether they’re in an important meeting or simply stuck in traffic

  • Surface computing technologies that do away with the mouse and monitor and allow images and data to be displayed on tabletops, walls and other surfaces and manipulated by making simple hand gestures

  • Graphics technologies that build on the lab’s long-standing expertise in graphics to create ever more realistic “virtual worlds” for users to explore using the power of computing to transform two-dimensional images into interactive 3-D experiences

Microsoft was one of the first software companies to create its own computer-science research organization with the founding of Microsoft Research in 1991. It continues to be unique among corporate research labs by balancing an open academic model with an effective process for technology transfer to Microsoft product development teams as well as to industry through the intellectual property licensing program. By working independently from product groups, Microsoft Research is free to focus on computer science research and visions that are 10 to 15 years beyond current product cycles.

Through a variety of academic programs, Microsoft Research collaborates with academia to create greater opportunities to pursue research in a variety of disciplines from search to robotics, from bioinformatics to gaming technologies. Microsoft Research and leading universities across the globe are continually working together to advance the state of the art of computing.

“Microsoft Research is extraordinarily supportive of our student and faculty researchers, from collaborating with them on emerging technologies in areas like 3-D photo tourism to creating opportunities for our team to collaborate with researchers all over the world. Our students have access to technology and resources that truly spark their imaginations and drive their research to another level,” said Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington. “Microsoft’s commitment to higher education is unsurpassed in the software industry.”

Beyond its influence on a broad range of Microsoft product innovations, Microsoft Research also enhances the overall IT ecosystem by providing economic opportunities for other businesses. Through its IP Ventures program, the research organization along with other parts of the company licenses technology to selected startup companies that in turn develop and market products on this foundation. To date, at least six startups have launched successful products through the IP Ventures program, with more expected in the coming months.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research employs more than 700 people in five labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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Rick Rashid: Microsoft Research 15th Anniversary Celebration

A transcript of remarks by Microsoft Senior Vice President Rick Rashid, University of Washington President Mark Emmert, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Dan Ling and other Microsoft officials during the celebrations of the 15 anniversary of Microsoft Research, September 26, 2006.