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The Almighty Buck

Xerox Trying To Sell PARC 119

JavaTenor writes "Xerox, with their stock currently at a 10-year low, is apparently shopping the Palo Alto Research Center (commonly known as PARC) to Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Anyone who's studied the history of computing will know how great a contribution PARC has had to the advancement of technology, and especially to GUI development. This should be an interesting story to follow. See the New York Times writeup here."
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Xerox Trying To Sell PARC

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  • What came out of PARC was the result of a commitment to an idea. Pay a bunch of hard core nerds to sit on their ass and just think up really cool shit.

    PARC is not an asset to be sold. If anything, it's a stewardship that should be passed on to another orginization or company that can give it the attention it deserves. Maybe a consortum of companies... Sun, Apple, ect.
  • apart at the seems. Oops, too late.

  • That's nothing. I interviewed with Adobe in May of this year and went to the trouble of putting my resume in PDF to send to them. They claimed to be pleased, but when I showed up each interviewer had a photocopy of a fax that was missing the bottom corner. This was *their own format*, and they couldn't even be bothered to use it. Not to mention they never called back to say they weren't interested.

    Del
  • Why not Sun? I hate seeing Scotty gloat, and he'd be all over this one.

    Why not Apple? Apple already has enough trouble. They don't need a research division bleeding them back into the red.

    Why not MS? Even though the breakup is a bit off, they'd be seeing integration problems. Also, Microsoft already has a slightly (okay, moderatly) cool research division.

    I'd go IBM, because they already do this sort of high-end conceptual stuff. Or perhaps HP, who is in much the same market (digital imaging/printing) but hasn't really turned out anything exciting and cutting edge since the 8000.. Both have the money.

    Unfortunatly, I think your Option 3 will be correct. They'll roll some VC's for a quick buck, and try to have a go of PARC making a buck off their patent portfolio, or perhaps actually roll out some of their commercially 'viable' ideas..
  • by wjr ( 157747 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @01:44PM (#691535)
    As long as they don't see a massive brain drain from the buyout, they should be doing fine. Despite what you say, there still exist companies like Microsoft and IBM who have enormous R&D departments and budgets. A buyout would be a shoe-in.
    The brain drain is already under way - I know because I'm one of the drainees, having left PARC this past February to go to a startup. A number of other people left around the same time I did, and I've heard of a number more since then. Remember, PARC is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, meaning that you can't walk down the street without three companies trying to hire you - the sort of talent that PARC attracts is particularly in demand. The temptation to go to a hot company that is offering a high salary and large stock option package is quite high.

    The exodus was bad enough in the spring, when Xerox's fortunes weren't quite so bad. With the company continuing to fumble, I can only imagine the morale there now (this is sad - the people there are friends; I worked with them for years).

    Personally, I don't put a lot of credit in this rumour; for one thing, I don't see a clear buyer. Maybe HP or IBM, but they've both already got large Bay Area research facilities. Remember - the inventions PARC creates belong to Xerox, not to PARC itself, so what can you sell? All the patents? Xerox is using a lot of them. The buildings? Xerox doesn't own those. The employees and ongoing projects? That's possible, I suppose... there are a bunch of really cool projects going on there (including ones I worked on), and a lot of really bright people still there. They're working as hard as they can to create Xerox's future, but that's always been a long-term thing, and the short-term needs may trump that.

    If Xerox does end up selling PARC, I don't know what will come out the other side - but it won't be the PARC that I worked at.

  • It would be nice to see IBM pick up PARC. IBM seems to be behind some of the leading research facilities today and adding PARC to that list could only help advance technology. Oh, and give us even bigger harddrives.
  • Frankly, nothing to come out of PARC in the last five years has been of the caliber of ground-breaking research it produced in the 70s and 80s.

    PARC is a relic of another era, and even as a research center, it has been relegated to imagining the ultimate photocopier.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, I heard the same thing from an unhappy semi high-up individual at Xerox. Apparently the company is effectively in the red and has no cash. The general feeling there is that this may well go beyond layoffs and selloffs. I think they'll be around for quite awhile in death throes though, this is a pretty big company that 's been around a long time. I'd be surprised to see them not be able to go on at all in the near future. -just an AC's .02-
  • "Anyone who's studied the history of computing will know how great a contribution PARC has had to the advancement of technology, and especially to GUI development."

    Maybe they can sell it to someone who will know what to do with it. Remember PARC developed Smalltalk, GUI, the mouse, etc in the 70's, but it took Steve Jobs to release it to the world, and Bill Gates to steal that and make it popular. Xerox management didn't know what they had,mush less how to market it.
  • If they would deliver the miracle that is Digital Paper, maybe they wouldn't have to look around to scrounge up cash. But no, some other startups will all implement it badly and at the same time, patent-infringing each other to death.

    I'd laugh if Adobe came up with it first, since they've got the PDF format down like it's the digital paper that can't get out of the computer, but who am I kidding. Just a mindless rant... I want my digital paper, Xerox! Where the hell is it!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm an MTS at Bell Labs and can tell you that it wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. One is that AT&T/Lucent has never been particularly good about exploiting stuff coming out of Bell Labs, so the incentive to spend money to buy more research is low. Another problem is location. Most of Bell Labs is in NJ, and it's already hard enough to coordinate. Throw in a big facility on the west coast and this problem just gets worse. And if you don't try to coordinate things, it has no chance of becoming part of the culture. Or maybe that's a good thing :-). You can't move PARC to NJ, since in the present economic climate, it's almost impossible to get anyone to move, especially from Silicon Valley. There are just too many nearby opportunities for people to go through the hassle of turning their lives and the lives of their family members upside down by moving. Finally, given the current (very high) rate of exodus from Bell Labs, if Lucent wanted to buy more research, they'd do better just trying harder to hold on to the people they've already got.

  • Maybe they should convert into an institution of higher learning --- a technical college. Nerds can still sit on their butts creating cool things, and they will spend some of their time teaching other nerds too. There may be some significant value in the name PARC for technical education marketing purposes.

    Higher learning and tech training is very big busines$ in the US.
  • I mean, hey, they never patented anything that came out of PARC... so they've got to get their money back somehow.

    (and yes, I know that they have made a bit of money.. but come on. Ethernet? LEDs? the freaking Mouse?)
  • While Xerox may have had a tough time making money from the inventions coming out of PARC, the inventions themselves have been hugely successful commercially. Just PARC's contribution to Ethernet, PostScript, OOP, and the Macintosh alone would be enough to justify the entire existence of PARC .

    But I also don't think the relationship between Xerox and PARC is much worse than that between other big companies and their research labs. AT&T and IBM research labs both have invented lots of things, and only a small fraction of their inventions have made it into products. Microsoft research is on its way of following the trend. PARC has also contributed tremendously to Xerox's core businesses. What distinguishes PARC is not the fraction of inventions that "got away", but the visible impact some of the inventions have had that did.

    But to take a more general perspective, basic computer science research is, unfortunately, in trouble everywhere. In the past, much of it was basically government financed (that's what gave you the Internet and a lot of the other neat computer inventions), and there was some long-term predictability. I view much of the stellar commercial success of Internet and technology companies over the recent years as simply taking government-financed R&D and bringing it to the market. And academia seems to have gotten caught up in the commercial and entrepreneurial maelstroem as well.

    The current economy is not such much a testimony to entrepreneurism and private enterprise, but rather to long-term government investments in research and technology. I see nothing wrong with that, but once the government stops financing the kind of research that leads to something like the Internet, the well will run dry in a few years, since private sources clearly aren't taking over this effort.

  • Well, over the last 5-10 years, just from memory: the ParcTab (wireless Palm-like device, years before the Palm), Aspect Oriented Programming, Gyricon (rewritable electric paper), digital rights management, reconfigurable robotics, extensive work on nanotechnology, to name just a few. PARC may not seem as visible anymore because every marketing group claims "groundbreaking technology", but PARC still delivers, and in terms of quality, the place hasn't lost its touch. For an institution with only a few hundred people, it's still just amazing how much is happening there.
  • Pick a top-twenty CS school, and you'll find at least one or two faculty who took a leave of absence, started a company which left them independently wealthy, and came back and returned to teaching classes, managing students, and writing research grants. If CS academia was broken, these rich folks would retire or become serial entrepeneurs or become fellows at bigcompany labs, instead of returning to the labs and classrooms.
  • Having just interviewed at Bell Labs, Lucent is planning on spinning off microelectronics and related Bell Labs research into a separate company. Thus, I would not look for Lucent to go on an acquistion spree and buy PARC. But I could be wrong.
  • and have a parallel PARC!
  • So, computers killed Xerox. Xerox made the GUI in PARC. Xerox gave it away. Apple got it, and everyone copied. Therefore, Xerox killed itself! Like Bill Gates said in the Pirates of Silicon Valley: "Its like we're two poor guy with a very rich neighbor."
  • I know that it's popular to bash how Xerox has handled the inventions that have come out of PARC, but many of the claims stated on /. (and elsewhere) are uninformed. Let's look a a few of PARC's inventions.

    Ethernet: Xerox made a tactical decision to give away free licenses in exchange for a partnership with DEC and Intel. IMHO this was a good idea, because that the time (remeber that this was before IBM introduced the PC) it was not at all obvious that ethernet would become a defacto standard. The biggest player in the computer market at that time (IBM) didn't support it, for example.

    Mouse: Contrary to popular belief, Xerox didn't invent it.

    Laser Printer: While one can argue that Xerox has not capitalized on this invention as much as they should have, they have still made many millions of dollars off this invention. I'm talking here about big printers (9700, DocuTech, etc), the ones that run at between 60 and 180 pages per minute and sell for $300K or more. Imagine how many printers HP has to sell to equal the profit that Xerox gets from selling just one of these babies!

    GUI: Again, Xerox didn't invent it. They did, however, invent the Desktop metaphor (the idea that your computer screen should be arranged to look like a desk, with file folders, in-baskets, etc). This is one area where Xerox probably should have done better.

    The PC: Bashing Xerox for it's handling of the PC is sort of like criticizing Thomas Edison for not capitalizing on his invention of the telephone (look up the history if you think that Alexander G. Bell was the only person working on this technology).

    Don't forget the new stuff, such as Smart Paper and PolyBots. And don't forget the materials research that goes on at PARC (they invented the laser diode, for example) and Xerox is profiting from.

    I'm not suggesting that Xerox should be nominated for sainthood, but PARC has easily paid for itself.

  • don't bother, the apple haters will never believe you no matter how many times you say it
  • My grandfather was one of the original investors, and did very well, so when Xerox hit 8, I bought 500 shares. Looks like a poor investment now. Xerox's only real asset is their incredible technology, and now they're shopping it around. I applied to PARC during the summer, but it doesn't look like a good idea to follow up.
  • *HP -- Their HQ is right down the road from PARC, they have been accused of being too stodgy, they desperately want to play in the big leagues. Seems like a good fit. That's what I'm laying my bet on anyway.

    PARC has a reputation for failing to transfer brilliant ideas into the business, why would HP want that? HP Labs may be less well known for revolutionary ideas, but it is respected for success in transferring its research into the product divisions. If HP wants the researchers, it can just hire them, they don't even have to relocate if they want to stay in Palo Alto. What else does PARC have to offer?

  • Maybe microsoft will buy it! I mean heck they bailed apple out, why not Xerox? I see this as a perfect marrige. MS-makes product that breaks alot and requires a new industry to support it. Xerox-Same Woop another score for my lord Bill Gates! --toq

  • Ooh, good point.

    Alternately, what about some of the PARC stuff going to an educational facility / think tank / tech incubator kind of deal ala MCC or Sematech (Austin bias showing)?

    Something where maybe making money isn't the end-all be-all...

    -LjM

  • by lrund ( 64966 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:41PM (#691556)
    PARC has been, to a great extent, a "basic research" institution (that's what the "R" is for in its name, after all). They develop technology, not products. The task of turning technology into product has been the work of other groups.

    Okay, you're a venture capitalist. PARC comes across your desk as being for sale. How is PARC going to turn a profit? They don't make anything. They learn things. And as admirable and necessary as that is, VCs have to be concerned about eventual profitability first and foremost. It's their job.

    PARC could make money, by creating patentable (oooh, there's that word) technology then licensing it to other companies to develop into products. That's risky, though, since the patent process is slow and uncertain (it can take years and years between applying for and receiving a patent). Someone might simply steal your idea and productize it, and play the lawyer/stalling for time game that Certain Monopolistic Companies are so skilled at. Or, you could add a product development team to PARC, but that would dilute it into "just another tech company". You'd have a respected name, but that won't pay the rent.

    It's a real shame that Xerox is considering selling PARC. Basic research is an endangered species, and in today's cutthroat corporate environment, shareholders won't tolerate money going into a black box with no clear returns (remember, the Board of Directors is elected by the shareholders, and they are bound to enact the will of their shareholders... we have met the enemy, and it is us. you DO have a 401K, right?). This leaves the government as the primary funder of basic research, and this is notoriously inefficient (when was the last time you heard of a government agency spending its money anywhere near as frugally as any corporation? Corps do have skills that the rest of us could stand to learn.)

    Ah well. The end of an era. As I reach for the mouse to click "Submit", I think kindly on you, PARC.

  • No, it's a feature provided by the joint Microsoft/NYT Windows 2010 Newsrag Edition for Non-Daytime Use w/Internet Explorer 7.92.4533.22567.11245676.0a Beta 1 RC7 currently available on a 10 DVD set for a special beta-testers price of only $3479.95 upon acceptance of the beta-tester NDR, and subsequent surrender of any and all vital organs if and when needed by MS or NYT executives. (Daytime Use capabilities will be included in Service Pack 1, scheduled to be released no more than 2 hours after Windows 2010 Newsrag Edition for Non-Daytime Use w/Internet Explorer 7.92.4533.22567.11245676.0a ships, available for only $967.84.)

    In other words, your browser is too old.

    --
  • Thanks for the info! I knew Parc Place was associated with PARC, but I'd not heard of them in the news for a while. Now I know why. Thanks again.

  • . . .And another one bites the dust. One would think that these big companies would take a page from history. Wang, DEC, even IBM not to mention countless governments large and small continue to prove that buraucracy will suck you dry.

    Sorry about PARC. Another Techie's Camelot in peril of the forces of finance. It reminds me of the saying:

    • Companies generate profits . . .
    • First from the Engineers,
    • Then from the Sales and PR Reps,
    • Followed by Maintainence and Support,
    • And finally by the Lawyers.

    PARC has been great, but it is just at the wrong end of the Xerox's corperate lifecycle.

  • by xil ( 151104 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:54PM (#691560)
    Yes, it's definitely time to worry when your boss's boss doesn't know how to print out something....

    Especially when you're working at "The Document Company"!

    I remember giving a resume to some Xerox recruiter at a job fair in college (mostly because I thought PARC was interesting). A few weeks later I got a letter back from them confirming that they had received it...unfortunately, my name and address were mispelled in three or four different ways! It looked like they OCR'd it sloppily and never checked the output. Not very impressive for a company which claimed to be on the cutting edge of document processing.

  • XRX management let PARCS's accomplishments wither on the vine. If Lucent was smart, and not currently busy with spin-offs and watching their stock dive, they would buy PARC and merge in into Bell Labs.

    OTOH, I think IBM would make better use of PARC's work on little things like Nanotechnology. Some of their more interesting work lately has been on Digital Video Analysis (think motion capture without artificial cues, for example), Electronic Reusable Paper, Smart Materials, and Modular Robotics. At least, this is the stuff from the projects page [xerox.com] that jumps out at me.

    IBM is also known [ibm.com] for innovation; They designed the first magnetic hard disk, the first realtime computer (for the military), DRAM, Fractals, Thin Film Recording Heads (yet another wonderful upgrade to hard drives), the Scanning Tunneling Microscope which could have a direct effect on Nanotechnology, and a nice impementation of high temperature superconductivity to boot.

    Not to mention, IBM has money. I think we have a match here, folks.

  • How the fuck is the above post offtopic? If you feel a need to waste your moderation points in such a fashion, moderate this post down, and please, spend one moderating the previous post back up. It doesn't deserve negative moderation - It's completely on topic.

  • Having worked at Xerox PARC for 2 years in the past, i know that Xerox PARC is not just the research site for Xerox Corporation. They are independent in that they just have get money from Xerox, but most of what they research is far from copiers.
    Many of their projects are in human interactions with computers, thinking about how to use current or future technologies in new ways, and advanced electronics. They have always been on the forefront of computer technology design, regardless of who owns them, i don't think PARC is going to leave that role.
  • Don't forget nanotech, especially with UW's new degree/a& gt;. [slashdot.org]
  • PARC is a research facility, it does not produce any products. In recent years they have declined, and they are no longer the pre eminent research lab, if they ever were.

    Check this ranking of IT labs to see where PARC stands.
    http://www.businessweek.com/1997/25/b353224.htm

    With respect to their recent accomplishments, I would have to say Bayou. More so for the effect it has had on distributed computing than for its commercial prospects. Every paper about distributed computing, supporting PDAs etc, quotes the Bayou paper or utilises the Bayou model.

  • On the flipside, it's not like Xerox has ever capitalized on having this asset. PARC claims invention of Ethernet, laser printer ...

    Xerox botched the laser printer business, sure; but even in botching it, they made billions (Brits: thousands of millions) of dollars in their big (e.g., series 9700, priced at $100K up) high volume laser printers in the early 1980s. PARC was a very profitable investment for Xerox.

    Great book on PARC: Michael Hiltzik's Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age [fatbrain.com] (buy where ever you'd like).
  • Wow -- Have you not been paying attention to some of the things to come out of IBMs Watson research center? Some amazing data-storage techniques, some outright wacky networking(/security) techniques (spinning molecules to protect integrity IIRC) and numerous others that don't come to mind offhand ... (check them out at their webpage [ibm.com])

    bemis
    -"Segmentation Fault: seems like memory is missing as the install crashes" -- direct from Mandrake 7.1 install-crash
  • observe that "the future of xerox" and "the future of western society" (or "computing industry" or whatever) are not necessarily the same thing. i think it's pretty plain what xerox's executives care more about right now and what the spokesperson meant.
  • Stanford buy it and further their research. Just a thought.

  • Digital Paper [xerox.com], and a whole LOT [xerox.com] of cool other stuff.

    The digital paper is the coolest though.
  • Apple did contribute original ideas in the Macintosh. It is not just a simple clone of what was done at PARC. PARC was just the inspiration.

    In contrast, Microsoft didn't really add anything new significant on top of what Apple had done. Except for one thing.

    The focus.

    The concept of a focus that can be moved to any control, even non text controls, and can be moved via. the keyboard -- thus making the entire UI operable without requiring a mouse -- now that was an innovation.

    I'll also grant that over time Microsoft has made a lot of improvements to their UI. But originally, (other than the focus) they didn't really add anything much new. In a lot of ways their UI was worse than Apple's. Can you say Program Manager. File Manager.

    Apple brought us a menu bar. Dialog boxes. The single button mouse. Gripe if you want, but it eliminates the question: which button should I click? It took Microsoft ever so long to figure out what to do with their right mouse button. A concept that Apple will have a hard time copying in their old OS.

    The original 1984 Mac UI is quite different than Smalltalk's GUI.
  • I worked at Xerox up until a few months ago, the place is a mess. I mean just look at their stock, it was at 50+ a year ago, and now it's at like 7. I remember all the management folks panicing when it went from 50 to 20 in one day, I wouldn't be surprised if most of them now are either looking for new jobs or contemplating suicide. I guess I'm glad us loser contract workers didn't get any stock options.
  • I read in an interview somewhere when Xerox management was asked about this, and they said that one invention from the Parc was able to finance it [the PARC] for like 15 years or something. Wish I had that URL....

    Erik

  • 1. Invent mouse and gui that goes along with it
    2. Secretly patent both
    3. Wait a long time
    4. Blackmail companies for money or sue for patent infrigement
    5. Come out on top

    Patents can get you a long way.

  • PARC could make money, by creating patentable (oooh, there's that word) technology then licensing it to other companies to develop into products. That's risky, though ...

    It's not that risky if it gets purchased by a large enough, well-enough capitalized corporation. Like, say, Hewlett-Packard.*

    IBM, AT+T, and Lucent can afford to do basic research and wait 5-20 years for the profits to materialize.

    *HP -- Their HQ is right down the road from PARC, they have been accused of being too stodgy, they desperately want to play in the big leagues. Seems like a good fit. That's what I'm laying my bet on anyway.
  • Giggle.

    The 9700 was probably an early proof-by-counterexample of the value of open source.

    When the 9700 first came out, the University of Alberta bought one. Xerox had boasted of how the printer could do 120page/minute double sided printing, with 300 DPI bit-mapped graphics, variable fonts and variable-width printing etc. etc. etc...

    The machine was about the size of a thin station wagon, with a PDP-11 (minicomputer) rasterizer engine.

    What they didn't bother to mention is that you couldn't do it all at the same time. The U of A was also developing a text processing language called Textform. Textform was pretty much a programming language wrapped around a text processing system (think Algol-like programming structures, HTML-like syntax and NROFF-like device independence). Once they got an understanding of how to use the printer many people started to use it as a cheap phototypesetter.

    As soon as the printer arrived, we started beating the thing to death. The printer would dump core on an almost regular basis. The university started pestering Xerox for a bug list for the printer. In the mean time, we slowly gathered a bug-list of what sorts of combinations of actions could kill the printer (e.g. double sided printing with more than 9 different fonts in a 6 page window, more than 4000 characters on a page (a BIG problem with bit=mapped graphics, since it was based on big-mapped characters). etc. etc. etc.

    By the time Xerox got around to delivering a bug list to the university, the university's bug list was about twice the size of Xerox's.

    nostalgia city:
    The university computer, at that point was an Amdahl V/8 with 32M RAM and an 18MIPS (dhrystones) CPU -- a killer deal for it's time at about $6Million. Using MTS (Michigan Terminal System) instead of an IBM OS, they could handle up to 700 simultaneous users. My home box, today, has 256M of ram, 800 MIPS (dhrystones) (P3/450) and can 'easily' handle a single user.

    Now I feel spoiled.
    `ø,,ø`ø,,ø!

  • I think that this bodes ill for the long-term future of Xerox. PARC has been their premiere research facility for a long time. It does a lot of the basic research that they've used to keep themselves competetive over time.

    I think that this is a death-gasp. Without Palo Alto, I fear that Xerox is going to die a slow death over time, as it looses what competitive edge it has left.
    `ø,,ø`ø,,ø!

  • It is a sad state of affairs. We are where we are today because, once upon a time, companies were willing to spend significant amounts on research to lead to a brighter future. Today, all that seems to count is current profitability. Get rid of all expenses that aren' absolutely necessary so that this quarter's income statement and stock price will be maximized.

    One day, we will look up and find that this approach is entirely inadequate. We will have reached the limits of usefulness of our current knowledge and have nowhere to go.

    IBM, AT&T, Apple, HP, Xerox, etc became truly great because of their former willingness to invest for the future. I hope that some future organizations will develop with similar foresight, but very little of it seems to be occurring, now. And with this announcement, even less.

  • While I understand that Xerox is a business, it sure is a shame to seem them willing to part with such a major part of computing history in the name of the dollar...

    Surely they've got some other less significant pieces they could sell off / carve up / dump in the trash?

    -LjM
  • I was involved with the huge effort Xerox made to convert technologies that PARC invented (Ethernet, Alto) and claims to have invented (laser printer, mouse, GUI) into a commercially-viable office information system. It was like pulling teeth to get anything out of those guys and, when you did, it turned out to be a complete hack job, quick-and-very-dirty code that could do no more than stagger through a carefully-controlled demo.

    It makes me crazy to see PARC continue to claim things that were invented by others. There was a working prototype of the laser printer long before PARC was founded, and Doug Englebart had invented the mouse and GUI well before the last fruit crop was harvested from their future site.

    PARC did a great many good things, and Xerox failed miserably to take advantage of them, but the standard story that PARC promulgates hugely exaggerates the facts.

  • Unfortunately, I don't think there are any half-decent educational institutions nearby.
  • That'll teach me to log out before having a party in my dorm room ;-).
    --
  • Does anyone else hear the sound of the game piece moving from Redmond to Xerox PARC?

    Maybe they can have a group of interns search through closets for valid ideas to use in new products.

    That, and who's going to develop the new technology that will allow more realistic ass photocopies? I never thought fuji had a really clear picture of what was more comfortable to the american worker in terms of ass photocopying.
  • "Medic! Quick! I'm laughing so hard, I'm choking!" -Daemia, Quake III Arena
  • >This leaves the government as the primary funder of basic research, and this is notoriously
    >inefficient (when was the last time you heard of a government agency spending its money
    >anywhere near as frugally as any corporation? Corps do have skills that the rest of us could
    >stand to learn.)

    I once believed this comment, and it is certainly the conventional wisdom, but don't believe it any longer. I did my Ph.D. at a large research university doing government-funded research and now work for a Fortune 500 company. If you go to a scientific conference and ask a person with a laptop if (s)he paid for the laptop themselves or if the company/government grant paid for it, you invariably get that the corp guys were "given" their laptops where the govt guys bought it themselves. This is invariable due to the fact that when the scientists make the case of what they "need" to their respective funding agencies, it is easier for the corp scientists to make their case. Fundamentally, I think this is because a corporation only hires the amount of scientists they need, whereas with the flat or declining budgets in governmental science, there is actually more competition for resources. The government agencies usually prefer to underfund several groups rather than really fund one large group. This underfunding usually results in some amazing innovation in basic research.

    Another reason university research is efficient is that for every dollar that goes to salaries, one dollar goes to benifits and bureaucracy. For (large) corporations, every dollar of salary translates into 2.5-3.5 dollars for benifits and bureacracy. Add in the fact that grad students and post docs are paid jack shit to begin with, and university research represents a real bargain. That is why many companies are looking to outsource their research to universities (althought I've seen projects killed because the university and company couldn't agree on how to split up the patents).

    Where corporations are super-efficient is actually turning the product into something that you can make money on. The statement that "the best way to transfer technology is with a moving van" (usually meaning that the grad student graduates and moves to work for a company) is as true as ever. You can't beat personal contact, and having "basic research" scientists able to walk down the hall and talk to the engineers who actually try to figure out how to get the stuff to work is really the only way to go.

  • Xerox selling PARC??? Are they getting into real estate? I can just see them now, trying to sell not only Parc Place, but Boardwalk and Marvin Gardens, too!

  • Did a lot of work on basic molecular modeling out of PARC.
    Of course, the fact that he left there in 1999 [merkle.com] is also relevant to this thread.
    *sigh*... I worked for Xerox AI Systems in 1986-8; we were one of Xerox's many attempts to commercialize PARC research in AI and Lisp. Our record for cooperation with PARC was mixed - they loaned us Larry Masinter and Bill van Melle when we were implementing Xerox Common Lisp, and that was an enormous help, but getting stuff out of them without specific direction was often difficult.
  • That might tell us a good answer
  • Imposter! I'm the real not rusty!
    --
    There is no K5 [kuro5hin.org] cabal.
  • It'll be sad to see another part of computing history left behind for the vultures to feed on.
  • This is the logical conclusion of Xerox's long-standing trend of fumbling PARC-created technologies and letting someone else build multi-billion dollar companies from them. It was only a matter of time before this was extended to PARC itself.

    OK,
    - B

  • That actor is probably costing them a million dollars a month.
  • You Forgot to remind us about the Free Reg for the 100th time! It's all over! RUN!

    ________

  • by /dev/kev ( 9760 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:25PM (#691594) Homepage
    Just list it on eBay!
  • everyone cross there fingers and hope that one of the following buys them. 1) Sun, They really should own everything cool 2) Apple, they already owe PARC everything why not repay the favor 3) Insert random startup looking to achieve legitimacy here 4) MS, if they study some of the original GUI code they might mave somthing usefull for w3k
  • by _N0EL ( 245472 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:26PM (#691596) Homepage
    On the flipside, it's not like Xerox has ever capitalized on having this asset. PARC claims invention of Ethernet, laser printer, first pc (the Altos), the mouse and GUI; they let these go and the benefits fell on such companies as 3Com, HP, IBM, and Apple. Hopefully this wonderful institution won't end up in the "trash," but in the hands of someone who understands PARC's visions.
  • We can always hope that Corel buys them.

    heh
  • .... or maybe some sort of geek shrine or museum. I hope whoever gets it keeps them going in the quest for the new.

  • This is the logical conclusion of Xerox's long-standing trend of fumbling PARC-created technologies and letting someone else build multi-billion dollar companies from them.

    So in your opinion it would have been better if only Xerox could have been able to market Ethernet devices, laser printers and mice? Yeah, financially they could have done better but their efforts helped us all quite a bit. A sad moment, but nothing lasts forever..

  • There is a lot of talk about PARC's historical accomplishments, and they are significant. But what have they produced recently? I don't mean to malign anyone still working there (it's not always the people, it's often the organization), but is the PARC of today the same as the PARC of yesterday?


    --

  • As long as they don't see a massive brain drain from the buyout, they should be doing fine. Despite what you say, there still exist companies like Microsoft and IBM who have enormous R&D departments and budgets. A buyout would be a shoe-in.

    Besides that, they still have other products waiting in the wing (which haven't fled to other companies yet). Digital paper, for one. There are enormous untapped markets and potentials for growth, if they could get some competent management in there.

    It may be bleak for us nostalgics, but it isn't half as bad for PARC as the naysayers would have us believe.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A lab is people not buildings -- Simoni, Lampson, Thacker, Starkwether, ... MS already did.
  • I wonder what PARC would go for one eBay? Come on ... wouldn't that be the way you'd like to see it end up?
  • So in your opinion it would have been better if only Xerox could have been able to market Ethernet devices, laser printers and mice?

    I'm not sure how you get that from what I'm saying... I simply asserted that Xerox frequently dropped the ball. I didn't say that that's the way it should be, or that it would have been better for the rest of us if things had happened some other way. It was simply an observation about Xerox's strange treatment of what is obviously an amazing asset.

    Read carefully before you put words in my mouth.

    OK,
    - B

  • You're right! In fact, I no longer take slash-dot seriously. It's been overrun by dotcom dropouts, Mac Heads, and Script Kiddies.

    --- Speaking only for myself,
  • Wierd thing is that PARC accomplishments always appear many years after they actually invented them. They produced all sorts of neat stuff and then sat on it until Steve Jobs or Bill Gates etc borrowed the idea and made it successful.
  • The best thing Xerox PARC ever gave us was....

    .....drum roll.....

    LambdaMOO!!!!!
  • I'll grant that PARC "gave" us all the things we associate with contemporary computers.

    But what have they done lately? Is anyone privy to anything "cool" coming out of PARC? Have they come up with some new quantum leap in computing/imaging/communications lately that makes them seem vital or even interesting in the same way that their previous developments did?

    It strikes me as tough for them to do or be that way in the midst of the pc/internet/communications/electronics/etc "revolution". Not only do their ideas get lost in the shuffle, but there are so many opporunties for people with that kind of a vision already, it's hard to see why or how they could all end up in a place owned by one of the old-economy refugees of information technology age (at least in the sense of products).

    Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems that Xerox may be trading on the past rather than the future potential of PARC.

  • Apple feined originality, but in a convincing way. Microsoft, on the other hand, neither pretended to be original, nor even better quality... just more convenient.

    If Microsoft were to buy PARC, it'd likely be the end of a great thing. Remember, decades before Bill Gates had his house wired for infrared badges to customize the displays from room to room, PARC had already been doing it.

    If the oil well of "cool companies to steal from" [turner.com] dries up, it could be like another '76 energy crisis! ;-)

  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:22PM (#691610)
    ...these days, the land PARC's sitting on is worth more than the business unit. I wouldn't be surprised to see it sell to some company wanting office space in Palo Alto, or to a developer (the kind that builds buildings and sells/leases them) looking to tear down the old buildings, build a new office park, and rent it out.

    Only half-kidding,
    -Isaac
  • Aspect-oriented programming:
    http://www.parc.xerox.com/csl/projects/aop/

    Also see AspectJ:
    http://aspectj.org/
  • dude, you are funny

    so funny i'm going to take another hit from my joint in your honor

  • Currently: $8 Billion (Reserve not yet met)
    Quantity: 1

    The Palo Alto Research Center (or PARC) has innovated much of modern computing technology - from the Mouse, to Ethernet, to the Graphical User Interface. PARC was part of Xerox for over 25 years, but now it can be YOURS!

    Think of it! You could own the research center that brought us Laser Printing!

    Low Reserve, serious bidders only please! Acceptable payment forms include Cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and shares of stock.

    BUYER IS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR SHIPPING.

    Opening Bid: $8 Billion
    Your maximum bid: [&nbsp ;]
    (Minimum bid: $8 Billion)

    Your bid is a contract - Place a bid only if you're serious about buying the item. If you are the winning bidder, you will enter into a legally binding contract to purchase the item from the seller. Plus, it looks like Xerox could use the cash.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • but if it were me, I'd rather go bankrupt then sell a kickass place like PARC
    --
    Peace,
    Lord Omlette
    ICQ# 77863057
  • Dunno about PARC itself, but Xerox's research division were publishing quite a few interesting papers on HCI a couple of years ago. One paper was a discussion on why paper is still better for some tasks than a computer screen, which went considerably beyond the "you can take it with you and the print is clearer".
  • ..these days, the land PARC's sitting on is worth more than the business unit.
    If I remember right, Xerox doesn't own the land or the building - they did at one point, but sold it off to someone and leased it back. This was done so that the land and buildings would no longer be an asset, sitting on Xerox's financial books. Xerox (and a lot of other companies) measure success in terms of return on assets: what was our income as a percentage of the stuff we own? This kind of deal reduces the total assets, and increases ROA.

    Basically it's a trick to improve a (short-term) measure of performance (ROA) but it has the side effect of decreasing actual (long-term) performance (you'll be paying that lease, at rates that will go up over time, forever). Sadly, this kind of trick is very common...

  • by NetWurkGuy ( 240604 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:29PM (#691626)
    XRX management let PARCS's accomplishments wither on the vine. If Lucent was smart, and not currently busy with spin-offs and watching their stock dive, they would buy PARC and merge in into Bell Labs.
  • by Ted V ( 67691 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:30PM (#691627) Homepage
    I heard from someone who works at Xerox that pretty much everyone in the company is looking for a new job, and has been for the past few months. This is just a rumor, of course, but I would be surprised if Xerox did NOT go Bankrupt. Someone said he helped his boss's boss print out a resume. I guess things don't bode very well for the company...

    And remember, you heard it on Slashdot, so it must be true!

    -Ted
  • Or list it on Fuckedcompany.com...
  • True, but maybe now the long history of fumbling will come to a happy ending: the hardworking PARC folks will get to work for a company that will actually pay attention to their projects and do something useful with them. No more being without honor in their own company. And that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
  • Perhaps Sun should buy them. They already have SPARC, so why not PARC?

    Or maybe HP should buy them. Then they could change the name of their PA-RISC chip to PARC.

    Seriously, whoever buys them would probably be someone large like Sun or HP who could eventually use the technology. Although HP has already spun off most of their R&D to Agilent.

    Alternatively, they might be able to spin PARC off as a separate company. Look at Lucent and Agilent. They don't really need to sell anything as long as they have a large enough patent portfolio.
  • Someone said he helped his boss's boss print out a resume.

    Yes, it's definitely time to worry when your boss's boss doesn't know how to print out something....
  • "Xerox would hate to part with them because they are the future," said Tom Long

    Xerox PARC ceased being "the future" when the Smalltalk crew bolted for ParcPlace [parcplace.com] in 1988 and it was essentially dead when Paul Allen acquired David Liddel [doorsofperception.com] and moved him a quarter mile north to Interval Research in 1992. But now, after $100 million of free-wheeling capital, even Interval Research is dead [salon.com].

  • They develop technology, not products. The task of turning technology into product has been the work of other groups...PARC could make money, by creating patentable (oooh, there's that word) technology then licensing it to other companies to develop into products.

    I'd thought this myth would have been thoroughly debunked by now. Xerox made a ton of money from PARC inventions -- most notably laser printers and Ethernet. The knock on PARC comes mostly from the "Apple stole the Mac interface from Xerox" story. That is in itself a myth to flatter Steve Jobs at the expense of the original Macintosh team. The Mac project was influenced by a visit to PARC but was largely designed long before that. And Apple paid to license GUI elements from Xerox, so the company even made money on that.

    ---------

  • by GoBears ( 86303 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @07:10PM (#691639)
    the same could be said of computer science research as a whole. the "ground" got broken long ago; not much fundamental has happened since the period you describe. the action has been in application and deployment. the web and internet offer very little that wasn't fully envisaged by the mid-80s. (remember ted nelson's xanadu? bob taylor's original vision of "distributed network computing"?) java offers little that wasn't in smalltalk or one of the lisp object systems. today's ai works because of moore's law. faulting parc (or any other lab) because lightning hasn't struck every decade is silly.

    anyone who thinks that kind of lightning will strike in a startup, the symbol of innovation in "this" era, misunderstands the nature of real innovation and basic research.

  • Maybe HP or IBM, but they've both already got large Bay Area research facilities

    Well there's Xerox's problem right there. They've mistakenly named it Xerox PARC, when it should be Xerox BARF.

    (ouch, sorry)


    --GnrcMan--
  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:36PM (#691647) Homepage
    That's basically what it will become. If it is spun off to a VC firm, the engineers will need to produce products, not ideas. That will surely mark the end of PARC as the R&D center of the valley.

    If they do get sucked up by a real company that needs them to produce products, it will be gone in 3 to 5 years.

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:37PM (#691648) Homepage Journal
    OK, Bob's known for saying dumb things about Linux and Open Source. But he's one of the more well-known PARC graduates, who took Ethernet (another thing they declined to market) and made a Billion with it. Let's have him use those profits to buy the lab he took them from. Nice irony. But then, Metcalfe's not the only candidate for this.

    Bruce

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @12:38PM (#691649) Homepage
    Of course, now Microsoft will have to buy it so they can tell Apple to stuff it with their whining about who invented the GUI.

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