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Microsoft Technology

Microsoft to Share 'Spare' Tech with Startups 272

Anil Kandangath writes "Long criticized for not being innovative enough, Microsoft has announced that it will share some of its 'spare' unreleased technology with startups so that they can get to market soooner with or without Microsoft's branding. Some of the 20 technologies being offered from Microsoft R&D include face recognition, high performance audio/video conferencing and natural language processing technology."
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Microsoft to Share 'Spare' Tech with Startups

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:14PM (#12447625)
    The first sample's free.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:20PM (#12447670)
      And the spiders crawling all over you aren't bugs, they're features.
    • Aww yeah, nothing like a big cool tall glass of IGNORANCE. From what I can gather, they're basically giving things coming out of MS Research [] to companies. And if you poke around the conveniently linked site, there's a lot of stuff there. A lot of it is research -- mind you that means it's not production ready or polished. But there's a lot of good stuff there. I don't understand how this could possibly be construed as a bad thing, but as history as shown, the zealots will find a way. MS Research is great,
      • by AstroDrabb ( 534369 ) * on Thursday May 05, 2005 @11:26PM (#12448338)
        mind you that means it's not production ready or polished
        It could mean it is not beta or even alpha code. Heck it could just be a for MS Word docs on something.
        I don't understand how this could possibly be construed as a bad thing
        Humm, did you spend more than 1 second thinking about it? Ask yourself WHY would MS give away their research to startups? Do you really think it is because MS wants more competition? NO. MS wants these startup to use MS-only tech and be locked in. Do you think MS is just giving this stuff away to startups with no strings attached? NO. MS will have their hooks in the deal one way or another. So some dumb startup takes a chance and gets in on this "deal", they are now using MS "property". You don't think MS will get some cut of any product this startup makes?

        This isn't MS just giving away tech that they are not interested in. This is MS wanting some startup to make something out of the tech that MS could not. Then MS will either sue the startup out of business or buy them out. So basically MS gets someone else to develop the product and they get to monopolize it.

        • Well M$ did spend good money on research (billions of dollars) and lending technology so that they can get some of that back does not seem so bad. In the end the user is the beneficiary, rather than waiting for years for all the research to come out, they will get to see it sooner. Almost? like licensing IMHO.
          • Well M$ did spend good money on research (billions of dollars) and lending technology so that they can get some of that back does not seem so bad.

            No, there is nothing wrong with a company wanting to get a return on their invetstment, all companies want that.

            In the end the user is the beneficiary

            Well, I don't agree with you there. I don't see how a user benefits from a monopoly owning all of the tech. Did you read any of the legal docs around this MS R&D "give away"? MS is not just giving it a

          • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:57AM (#12448751)
            Well M$ did spend good money on research (billions of dollars) and lending technology so that they can get some of that back does not seem so bad.

            But then you ask.. just WHY are they spending so much money on this "research" when it is plainly obvious from the history of the industry that most software related innovation happens automatically and incrementally. Let me give you a hint: MS is one of the few players that really truly supports software patents.. and it's because they're one of the only ones that benefits.

            So no, MS should not be allowed to profit on the vast majority of the "research" coming out of their labs. It's not because good ideas aren't being generated. It's because those same good ideas would have come out naturally without one company spending billions to force them out before their time. Do you see what they're trying to do? In the face of competition from Open Source and (moreso) an industry quickly shifting to vendor-neutral standards, they're trying to monopolize innovation itself. Why do you think they suddenly set up all those cheap overseas research labs? I don't see any dramatic improvement in their products. No, they're basically astroturfing all possible future directions of innovation with patents in attempt to make it impossible to compete without them still getting a piece of the action. That's not capitalism. It's unethical business practice.

            Software patents are wrong and this is a perfect example of why. Hopefully most of the rest of the world will maintain a better grasp on sanity.
        • MS wants these startup to use MS-only tech and be locked in.

          And if they *are* "just a MS Word doc", what are they going to be locked-in to? A licencing deal? Big deal - that happens all the time, and no-one is being forced into this.

          You don't think MS will get some cut of any product this startup makes?

          Yes, if the terms of the agreement stipulate that. So what? That's what licencing means. You either pay an up-front fee, or a per-unit/time fee, or a mixture of both. So what? Don't like it, don't do i
      • I got a lot of half-machined, half-baked, partially-burnt circuit board ideas-gone-too-far in my basement, too! Maybe someone would want to start a business that revolves around my junk.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @11:15PM (#12448283)
      Microsoft already gets most of its useful "innovations" from buying startups (and let's face it relative to Microsoft just about *everyone* is a start up). So, to Microsoft, this makes great sense: Seed the startups with the technology you want to develop, then buy up any that show promise. This is vastly cheaper and more effective than doing your own inhouse development.

      I'm sure there's small print that prevents the company from selling out to MS enemies.

      For the start-ups, it looks good too. They have some sort of Microsoft "special relationship"/endorsement/whatever that they can wave in front of the venture capitalists. Someone is always going to get screwed over, but it isn't the start ups or MS.

      • I wonder if you're ineligible if you're the same company that MS got the technology from when they bought you out as a startup the first time? Does MS have a big list of technologies awaiting the 'proper' time for development? Microsoft has made several moves in the recent past that suggest they are migrating towards a more open minded approach to collaboration and the OS community. THIS may be the REAL 'tipping point' for free software. Has Bill Gates decided 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'? Of course on
  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:14PM (#12447626) Homepage
    Otherwise, wouldn't it be integrated into Windows by now?
    • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:31PM (#12447750)

      No loss, possible win. If somebody does build upon it successfully, they can get the novel warm glow of saying that the tech "originated" at Microsoft.
    • More likely is that it works too well, and the Windows group doesn't want it because it will make them look bad.
    • Actually, this is probably all that "Microsoft Research" crapola that Microsoft ignores. I mean, why have a team of crack researchers working on the Next Big Thing(TM) when you're just going to ignore what they're doing?

      Here's my take on it: Microsoft Research was founded not as a way of performing valuable research for Microsoft, but as a way of preventing smart people from doing valuable research. By locking up the industry brainiacs, Microsoft can virtually guarantee that no one will come up with the technology to challenge them.

      That's my take on it, anyway. Too bad they missed a few []. ;-)
      • Here's my take on it: Microsoft Research was founded not as a way of performing valuable research for Microsoft, but as a way of preventing smart people from doing valuable research. By locking up the industry brainiacs, Microsoft can virtually guarantee that no one will come up with the technology to challenge them.

        Or they're just astroturfing all possible future paths of innovation with patents. I think that's a more logical conclusion given the circumstances.
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:15PM (#12447629)
    Ok, somebody tell me how this is "evil". I'm gonna enjoy this one.
    • Well, it's a fairly good example of how even if they can innovate, they can't make the innovations into products.

      And I remember someone saying something in the "It Just Works" comments about how the Microsoft suits are too conservative to allow the innovation to actually be used in the products. In the absense of a long and detailed history of everything Microsoft Research has ever done, that sounds reasonable.
    • Well, they're not sharing it so much as selling it to them through either royalties or partial ownership. So I think it's safe to say they aren't actually being benevolent, nor is this even that newsworthy. ..come to think of it, this has been happening on /. a lot lately. That and the constantly biased blurbs, I mean, I'm not taking sides with anything, but is it that hard to write from a neutral POV?
      • I've worked for a company that 'shared' their technology with us. It was an early release of their DRM tech.

        To put it shortly, it sucked. They didn't help us, they used us to alpha / beta their slow, crappy product and then turned around and sold it to three other people at once. We were asking for it, but since they gave us such shitty support and implementation was such a nightmare, we didn't have any advantage over our competitors at the time. There was no real benefit to the company for doing what
    • by Andrewkov ( 140579 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:42PM (#12447823)
      Ok, somebody tell me how this is "evil". I'm gonna enjoy this one.

      All the free software is written in Visual Basic.

      • I have spent quite some time maintaining/upgrading code that was written in Visual Basic 3. Believe me... "Visual Basic" as the world knows it (Versions 5, 6, and .net) is not evil... in fact they are gifts from gods compared to VB3...
    • It's a cookbook!
    • I like quotes too.

      I think the head line should have been:
      Microsoft to "Share" "Spare" "Tech" with "Startups"

      and If we want to make it *REALLY* cynical
      Microsoft to "Share" "Spare" "Tech" "with" "Startups"

    • You dont understand. If IBM share their technology its the best thing since sliced bread and we get hundreds of comments singing their praises. If M$ (remeber to use that '$' sign) share their technology, well, it's evil. Why? Because it's M$!!!
      • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Thursday May 05, 2005 @11:41PM (#12448419) Homepage
        Correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't sound like MS is sharing this with the world. They are sharing it with "startups". So if I want to tinker with one of their technologies I read about in the paper today -- e.g. something that is supposed to make junk speakers sound really good -- I can't do that in my spare time in my garage. I have to be a "startup company" with plans on making a product. So comparing this to IBM, who shared their stuff with the world, is a bit like comparing loan sharks to people who donate to the poor. Sure, the loan shark might give you $10 to buy food, but he wants $20 back next week. A "do gooder" does it for the warm fuzzy feeling.

        This is just my impression of MS's offer. I'd be happy to know I'm wrong, and have a link to the site showing what this speaker technology is so I can fiddle with it for my own non-commercial reasons.
    • Well, it's not free at all - Microsoft is free to licence it out to other companies. And thus also to prevent them from releasing an open source version, or even a version for other platforms.

      As with all things Microsoft it's not evil on the face of it, but it gives them a great big "pull here for evil" lever to activate when they so choose. The real problem is they've shown a weakness in regards to large levers.
  • by RebelWithoutAClue ( 578771 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:16PM (#12447633) Homepage
    Talk about a deal with the devil ...
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:16PM (#12447634) Homepage Journal
    We couldn't get it to work. The guy we had working on that went to Google. See what you fellas can do. Ten bucks.
  • Ugh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mscnln ( 785138 )
    I stopped reading at

    ...senior director of Microsoft's Intellectual Property Ventures.
  • How long until... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TedTschopp ( 244839 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:18PM (#12447653) Homepage
    They are forced to purchase this small startup when they truely do something innovative with said technology...

    • by Pakaran2 ( 138209 )
      They don't have to do that. MS has lawyers on salary. They can spend far more on lawyers than any startup. SO they sue them and wait for the startup to go broke. No actual case needed - just a lawyer with a good eye for minutae to make issues over.
    • Microsoft has, what, $50 billion in the bank? They need *something* to spend it on. And if the investment goes south, they can probably just write it off on their tax returns. That can quickly turn a $20 M failed investment into a $10 M failed investment. Mere peanuts!
      • The sad thing is that $50 billion is enough money for 50,000 middle class people to live off the interest -- and that's just if the money's in a low-interest savings account, nevermind investments with higher interest rates.
    • Ahhhh, you're waiting for the headline: "Microsoft to 'Spare' Tech Startups"
  • soooner (Score:3, Funny)

    by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:20PM (#12447664)

    I swear, its like there is a program which randomly inserts spelling errors into the stories. It's just amazing- all this discussion about high tech software and the people running the site can't even manage to use a simple spell-checker.

    • I was reading through this old diary of a young girl [] who was 11 years of age at the time. Freud specifically states that errors in the text were not fixed.

      Now compare this little girl's work to that of the average slashdot poster, who incorrectly spells words like "lose" and can't correctly place an apostrophe even by sheer luck. Truly awesome.

    • I swear, its like there is a program which randomly inserts spelling errors into the stories

      Aithur that oar the peeple hear kant sppel wirth a dam. Their kneeds too bee moor atension speant prouphing you're poaste beefour submiteing.
  • by lottameez ( 816335 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:20PM (#12447669)
    Do they share what the color palette for the blue screen is?
  • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:20PM (#12447671) Journal
    Because they don't seem to using it!

  • by Shamashmuddamiq ( 588220 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:21PM (#12447675)
    Sounds like they're trying to get individuals with an appetite for the "startup culture" (e.g. 80 hour work weeks, brilliant minds) to do the work for them, while they reap the profits. Let's face it, most of the "technologies" that Microsoft is "lending out" probably aren't very well developed, and have hit a brick wall in the last few years. If Microsoft doesn't do something like this, they'll never get a dime for their efforts.
    • You're right. And if you are among the brilliant minds putting in the 80 hour week, and you actually make it work, you can be sure to walk away with an 8 figure bank account and/or a high position within Microsoft. You're not going to be the next Bill Gates (or Larry Page, since apparently that's what the kids want to be now), but it's still a sweet deal.

      As far as the risk goes, if you know a safer way of making that kind of money, I'd like to hear it.

      Heck, I'd do it myself, but it would probably mean I h
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:21PM (#12447682)
    TFA talks about licenses and royalties. How about just sharing some of these castoffs with all of us. You never know what some smart kid will do with it.
    • by l3v1 ( 787564 )
      How about just sharing some of these castoffs with all of us

      You'd just need to take a look around, pick a topic and visit some conferences. You'd be surprised how many good ideas you can pick up, some of them in their infancy, some of them mature. You know, there are quite many of us out there who really publish their ideas, for everyone to see. Granted, some of those get patented if they hold some businness opportunity, but the vast majority isn't. And sometimes all it takes is a great idea to get you s
  • by triso ( 67491 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:21PM (#12447684) Homepage

    Do you think they will let us do Linux ports of their software?

  • Woop Woop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kwirl ( 877607 ) <> on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:22PM (#12447687)

    Microsoft has always taken a beating among the open-source community for their 'closed' attitude, and I don't believe this act on their part is going to be taken as a gesture of anything positive here.

    However, I imagine the people who actually develop tools and resources for the OSC will be quite happy to hear this news. Microsoft will *NOT* be giving them a working, polished product to sell and distribute, but not all of the people who enjoy development are in it for the money. Microsoft is handing you the keys to millions of dollars worth of R&D luxury, and I think it is going to be an enjoyable ride.

    This technology will only go as far as the developers who pick it up can carry it, but it is an opportunity for a lot of talented people to look at the developmental stages of a Microsoft project, and take that knowledge to other useful platforms in the future.

    I for one shall enjoy the wrath of /. as I say "Thanks."

    • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:39PM (#12448086) Homepage
      You obviously didn't read the article. Microsoft isn't "handing you the keys". They're leasing you something they couldn't get to work. And, wherever you manage to take it, you take them with you. You can bet your ass it won't be worth diddly squat to the "Open Source Community".
  • A patent trap? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:22PM (#12447691)
    I can only hope that the tech is given with a clear release from any future patent claims by MS. Without that, any company that uses MS technology is very vulnerable to future claims for use of MS' intellectual property.

    Otherwise, its a good move by MS to expand the economic pie of the MS universe.
  • TFA: "In some cases, Microsoft would take part ownership in the young companies using the technology, or royalty payments would be paid to the software giant."

    Sounds like Goodfellas.
  • Microsoft Research (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:23PM (#12447698)
    Microsoft Research [] does have some interesting ideas and projects going on (not related to Longhorn etc) and it may be worthwhile to look at them .

    Check their research areas [] ranging from: Algorithms and Theory, Hardware Development, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, Adaptation, and Intelligence, Multimedia and Graphics, Search, Retrieval, and Knowledge Management, Security and Cryptography, Social Computing, Software Development and Systems, Architectures, Mobility, and Networking.

    Here [] is the full list.

  • According to a couple of my profs, Microsoft has one of the best R&D labs. They do some very cool stuff. It's not bad that they are trying to have other companies do some of the work and letting them have a share in the end result. This is how science is SUPPOSED to work. Revolutionary things don't come out of a single person or a company most of the time. They come out of several groups acting together. This is what science is all about. I think this is a good move on their part.

    Those who are pro-OSS
  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by xswl0931 ( 562013 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:28PM (#12447728)
    Most comments indicate that most people have not actually read the article. Microsoft is not giving away for free its unused research. It is offering to license it to startup companies.
    • Exactly! The editor used the word share when Microsoft isn't sharing anything at all.

      Cast a suspicious eye when Microsoft is licensing software patents that should never have gotten issued to former employees. Then in lieu of payments they are accepting royalties on products that may never make any money or taking an interest in the company? Shifty stuff there. It looks to me like they are trying to create a 'body of evidence' for a future court battle over patents.
  • by Husgaard ( 858362 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:30PM (#12447740)
    That is really what is is - otherwise they would have used it themselves.

    It is good PR for Microsoft. It makes them appear innovative and willing to share their technology.

    And most likely this is without risk for them. They probably only allow other small companies to work on these failed projects under conditions that would allow them to get full control of anything usefull developed.

  • by MisanthropicProgram ( 763655 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:31PM (#12447746)
    letting people put it on the market.

    When I was at IBM in 1994, a guy there wrote a chat program that not only worked over TCP/IP, but over Netbios, Novell, and some network protocols. When he showed it to his boss, the manager said, "We're not in that business." and the software was mothballed on some server. A friend of mine who worked at Digital saw similar things happen there. In short, some really cool stuff had to be invented later on. The thing that killed me was the people who got the IRC stuff going made millions, and poor slobs working for these big corps got nothing.

  • by dustmite ( 667870 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:38PM (#12447791)

    MS make virtually all their money from the "horizontal" markets of Windows and Office. Every startup that creates new software that runs on Windows adds value to the Windows platform and thus sells more copies of Windows. Since Microsoft doesn't really do "niche markets", it's still beneficial for them if niche market players develop software for the Windows platform - every copy of the niche market software sold is also a sale of Windows. If MS is seeing ISVs in these markets are starting to develop software for alternate platforms, it may be worthwhile to add competing products that run on Windows rather.

    I have no idea if that's the actual reasoning behind this, it's just an idea, as you can be sure the press release is mostly just spin and it's hard to tell what the full story is here. Maybe it's just a kind of investment, with MS taking part ownership but still letting someone else manage these "niche market" businesses that they're not interested in. Perhaps their view is that they'll simply buy any startups that appear to be taking off and develop interesting technology .. offloading R&D costs onto others but still reaping benefits by "buying and integrating" whenever the R&D pays off - the same "buy all vaguely interesting startups" model they've been using for years (because MS never innovate, they only buy innovative technology from others and integrate it), maybe they're running out of innovative startups to buy ;)

  • Just don't read the fine print.
  • Innovate? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stretch0611 ( 603238 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:44PM (#12447828) Journal
    From []

    v. tr. - To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time.
    v. intr. - To begin or introduce something new.

    Face recognition, video conferencing, and language processing are not new ideas. There are other technologies already doing this. Therefore Microsoft still is not innovative.

  • Translation:

    Microsoft, not satisfied with dragging Ford into bankrupty is now making sure that no small startup company will arise to challenge its dominance of the computer software industry b y seeding small compainies with leftover innovations that it could not sell i.e. Clippy and Bob.

  • Heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dopelogik ( 862715 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:59PM (#12447895)
    That causes an interesting loop. So Mircosoft hands out their unfinished code and lets another company work on it for free, causing no liability to MS. And then when the product is successful MS will buy out the company. SO now they are creating their own companies to buy out. Interesting.
  • by Maljin Jolt ( 746064 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:17PM (#12447982) Journal
    Because Inrix is effectively controlled by Microsoft, both by technology and personell, this process of "sharing" technologies is completely fictional and serves only one purpose: to virtually syntetize some "existing" profitable bussiness model based on strict IP control. They just want to pretend a market with IP as commodity.

    It is intended to mystify lawmakers in the near future with some artificial case study and counter the common sense understanding the IP privilegia are harmfull to tech advance.

    Remember how patents on steam engine effectively delayed industrial revolution by 50 years. Two generations.
    • by bananahead ( 829691 ) * on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:29PM (#12448035) Journal
      I think you have this one wrong. Microsoft is actually negotiating some interesting deals that do not give them control over the company licensing their technology. I am working with several legal firms that are also working on these deals, and they are surprised at how open the Microsoft negotiations are, compared to prior negotiations over different business deals with them. Microsoft is not insisting on control, a ton of stock, a ton of cash or any other onerous terms. They want royalties and access to technolgy created in a non-exclusive arrangement.

      I, for one, am surprised.

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:27PM (#12448026) Homepage
    it's the same thing they've been doing all along. only now they're openly admitting to selling unfinished technology.
  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:29PM (#12448038) Homepage Journal
    Name any business that "partnered" with Microsoft that has not been "screwed" by Microsoft three to six years later.
  • Philanthropy (Score:2, Informative)

    by BrianPan ( 786919 )
    > IBM recently made 500 of its patents freely available.

    IBM shares technology by making their patents free. Microsoft shares by selling their technology.

    • Re:Philanthropy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bananahead ( 829691 ) *
      As I mentioned above, there is a HUGE difference betwen giving away patents and licensing working functional research code. A patent is typically worthless except to the original idea, and eve then most don't amount to a hill of beans. Working code, as I have seen come out of Microsoft Research, can be worth millions with the right backing.
  • I wonder if anyone can make it work in a usable manner... []

    And... isn't this about Microsoft licensing their development? That is, not giving it away?

    Not that it's a bad thing per se, but a lot of people are reading this as Microsoft giving stuff away for free.
  • You may be surprised to find this letter. I am the trustworthy president of an upstart tech company that uses Samba and WINE, and we need some source code to tie those two with ReactOS to innovate a complete operating system that we can sell for $5. We expect to make $6.2 MILLION DOLLARS and we will need to transfer these funds abroad.

    Your 'tech' help will be appreciated.

    Sincerely Yours

    Bruce Perens
  • None of that crap ever worked, except as PR from Microsoft, claiming they're bringing the future here through their relentless innovation. Now that it's served its purpose, to con people into thinking of MS as innovative, they can get rid of it. In a way that MS will surely use to take credit for the success of others later, when actual innovators actually get those techs to work.
  • Yeeessh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Friday May 06, 2005 @07:13AM (#12449806)
    I haven't RTFA, but I'm shuddering to think of the stuff these startups are in for - if they could actually ship Bob and ME and Works and Clippy, imagine the technologies MS saw fit NOT to foist upon the public? Oh, the humanity!

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.