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Microsoft's Live Labs Launches: Think Tank/Incubator for the "Web 2.0" Era

"Live Labs has ambitious goals and will shortly number in excess of 100 world-class researchers and innovators"

 Last week, Microsoft marshaled its vast resources and influence to launch a full-blown think tank and incubator for the disruptive and increasingly pervasive technologies and products of the Web 2.0 age: it's called Live Labs. I was fortunate to be in invited attendance at Microsoft's terrific Search Champs conference last week and had a front row seat to listen to Dr. Gary Flake as he explained the innovative vision for this new and extensive research organization. 

And a significant effort it is: Live Labs has ambitious goals and will shortly number in excess of 100 world-class researchers and innovators, all coming together to exploit the new forms of communication and collaboration made possible by the fact that the online world is increasingly woven into the fabric of our daily lives.


Live Labs: MSN, Microsoft Research == Web 2.0 Era Think Tank and Incubator


While you can read the intriguing Live Labs manifesto at Live Labs yourself, I was more fascinated by Gary's presentation where he discussed the seed ideas that prompted MSN and Microsoft Research (aka MSR) to come together and start Live Labs.  Note that MSR, started way back at the dawn of the Web in 1991, has a very successful track record for moving emerging and leading edge technologies directly into Microsoft products.  For its part, MSN represents both the bulwark and beachhead of Microsoft's mainstream Web presence and also develops Microsoft's Live Software products, particularly Live.com, which will become increasingly important as the linchpin of Microsoft's version of Web 2.0 ideas. 

If Microsoft and others create compelling enough services for Live.com, the idea is that customers will literally live there and consume an ever greater majority of their data and services via this customizable roaming desktop.

But back to Live Labs itself, which is intended from the beginning to be the leading alliance "between some of the best engineering and scientific talent in the world. It will be the pre-eminent applied research laboratory for Internet technologies," according to Gary Flake, who is also leading this effort. 

Simply stated, Microsoft sees that software is increasingly moving to the Web, just as the Web becomes a completely immersive, two-way experience for more and more people.  With the Internet becoming a major force for the democratization of information, tools, and resources, it's triggering a revolution in the way that we live our lives.  This revolution is dramatically shaping how "we create, share, and refine anything that can be digitally encoded, be it news and information, artistic forms, scientific breakthroughs, personal communications, economic transactions, and, yes, even software," according to the Live Labs manifesto.

If MSR's previous successes are any indication, Microsoft may very well achieve most of the goals it has set out for Live Labs and acknowledges the task is huge and may take decades.  Thus, Live Labs sets out three goals:


  • Empower Microsoft employees to create Internet technologies and solutions more easily and quickly than ever before.
  • Sponsor exchanges of knowledge, research, and innovation between partners, the academic community, and the world of the Internet.
  • Foster a community of people and projects which will inspire others to join in.

It's this first piece which is the most telling.  Though Gary makes much of the The Long Tail, network effects, the Internet Singularity, at the end of the day, Live Labs is first and foremost in the business of helping Microsoft to succeed in this emerging new world.  And to hear Gary tell it, they understand that this new world is fundamentally revolutionary and is just beginning.  So the winners will be those who seize the day now, lay the foundation, and plant the seeds for leveraging this ever tighter coupling between the online and offline worlds that Gary believes will dramatically "accelerate science, business, society, and self-actualization."


Dr. Gary Flake Describes Live Labs on Announcement Day - Jan. 26th - at Search Champs



I certainly believe that Microsoft is making the right moves and investmest in this space.  And while they mention Web 2.0 in the manifesto, they are even willing to one-up the concept and state that even bigger things are afoot: World 2.0; a fundamental symbiosis of the real world and the online world(s).  But ramping up a large organization is difficult and will take time, just like MSR took years to start churning out innovation into Microsoft's product line.  I suspect however that they will have earlier, and perhaps larger, success with Live Labs (aka MSR 2.0) because of prior experience and because, like the manifesto says, in this new world, "startup costs and barriers to entry diminish; opportunities for creating entirely new value increase; human muscle no longer gates scalability; transactions are not bound by time, distance, or size; and something intangible - a better algorithm - can massively increase global utility and welfare."

I've written recently that if I were invested in a Web 2.0 product line that Microsoft was getting into, I would worry once they fully get Live Software off the ground.  Microsoft seems to realize Web 2.0, Live Software, and World 2.0 is the where the future lies and they are rallying the troops.

For other great coverage of Microsoft's new Live Labs, read these great articles:


Finally, as a special treat to readers of this blog, with his express permission, I was able to record the original presentation by Dr. Flake at Search Champs last week into a podcast for all to hear (full file here, 52MB, 55 minutes, 33 seconds).  It's very clear though you'll have to turn it up a bit.  Note that this was the speech that also included Robert Scoble's terrific "I'm not an edge case" dialogue (link with audio here, and more background here.)


Gary Flake's Live Labs Presentation on January 26th:


posted Sunday, 29 January 2006

Dr. Gary Flake Describes Live Labs on Announcement Day - Jan. 26th - at Search Champs



I certainly believe that Microsoft is making the right moves and investmest in this space.  And while they mention Web 2.0 in the manifesto, they are even willing to one-up the concept and state that even bigger things are afoot: World 2.0; a fundamental symbiosis of the real world and the online world(s).  But ramping up a large organization is difficult and will take time, just like MSR took years to start churning out innovation into Microsoft's product line.  I suspect however that they will have earlier, and perhaps larger, success with Live Labs (aka MSR 2.0) because of prior experience and because, like the manifesto says, in this new world, "startup costs and barriers to entry diminish; opportunities for creating entirely new value increase; human muscle no longer gates scalability; transactions are not bound by time, distance, or size; and something intangible - a better algorithm - can massively increase global utility and welfare."

I've written recently that if I were invested in a Web 2.0 product line that Microsoft was getting into, I would worry once they fully get Live Software off the ground.  Microsoft seems to realize Web 2.0, Live Software, and World 2.0 is the where the future lies and they are rallying the troops.

For other great coverage of Microsoft's new Live Labs, read these great articles:


Finally, as a special treat to readers of this blog, with his express permission, I was able to record the original presentation by Dr. Flake at Search Champs last week into a podcast for all to hear (full file here, 52MB, 55 minutes, 33 seconds).  It's very clear though you'll have to turn it up a bit.  Note that this was the speech that also included Robert Scoble's terrific "I'm not an edge case" dialogue (link with audio here, and more background here.)


Gary Flake's Live Labs Presentation on January 26th:


posted Sunday, 29 January 2006

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