Microsoft Embarks on New Internet-Tech Research Initiative

Microsoft has formed Live Labs, a new research partnership meant to jump-start its Windows Live initiative by investigating new Internet-centric technologies and products that offer commercial possibilities.

Windows Live is a free ad-supported service that helps users develop their own online desktop applications, such as calendars, e-mail and instant messaging.

Essentially, it is a rebranding of MSN to deliver more value around the Windows product, Joe Wilcox, senior analyst at Jupiter Research told TechNewsWorld. In short, anything offered on MSN today will be an enhanced feature on Windows Live.

“Windows Live is just the first step,” Wilcox said. “Microsoft is building out all of its existing products, cross-connecting different features around communications and social networking.”

Live Labs is just another step in this overall initiative, he said.

How Practical?

One of Live Labs’ goals is to accelerate Windows Live offerings. Another is to develop practical applications around computing theories or principles.

This is important if Microsoft wants to keep up with other providers in the marketplace, Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, told TechNewsWorld.

“The important thing for Microsoft is not to look strictly at the technology but try to really understand what users want,” she said. “Investing in research and development is great, but it needs to be applied to specific business pains.”

For instance, not all consumers are willing to depend on an Internet connection to use word processing, she explained. “A lot of people are still waiting to see what else it will offer before they decide to try it.”

In Beta

Live Labs will focus on multimedia search, machine learning, distributed computing and data mining, along with the development of new disruptive technologies, according to Microsoft.

There are many products in beta for Windows Live, but Wilcox guesses that “some of them may never turn into real services.”

That is what this investment in Live Labs is all about, he continued. “It is meant to be an idea factory.”

A research partnership between MSN and Microsoft Research, Live Labs will be headed by Gary William Flake, industry technologist and Microsoft technical fellow.

“Live Labs is a fantastic alliance between some of the best engineering and scientific talent in the world,” Flake said.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for researchers and technologists to have an immediate impact on the next evolution of Microsoft’s Internet products and services,” he enthused, “and [it] will help unify our customers’ digital world so they can easily find information, pursue their interests and enrich their lives.”

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