MIT, Laptop Maker Quanta Join in $20 Million Research Effort

As the world's largest maker of laptops, Taiwan's Quanta Computer and MIT are teaming up to research some really big ideas.
As the world's largest manufacturer of laptop PCs, Taiwan's Quanta Computer has been at the tail end of the food chain of computing, but the firm plans to move to the head of the line with Friday's announcement that it is teaming up with MIT on a $20 million joint research collaboration project.

Called "TParty" " with a node to "technology" and Boston's revolutionary inciting Tea Party -- the five-year effort will be aimed at developing the next generation of platforms in computing and communications.

Although TParty isn't officially an extension of MIT's famed Project Oxygen, the project has the look and feel of the late Michael Dertouzos' effort to humanize computing into what he called "pervasive human-centered computing." His former right-hand colleague at Oxygen Victor Zue will have an important leadership role as co-director of MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab in which TParty will be situated.

"TParty isn't directly related to Qxygen," said Patti Richards, spokeswoman for MIT. "But much of Mike's work will be carried on there."

"Together, Quanta and CSAIL will establish a team and work toward a new world of self-organizing devices which make our lives more pleasant and productive," said Professor Rodney Brooks, CSAIL's director, in a statement.

At the same time, the new research endeavor helps Quanta in its effort to break out from manufacturing and enter computing at its highest levels of research. Quanta's chairman Barry Lam has also announced the firm will build a new $150 million research and development complex in Taiwan. Some 7,000 engineers will work in the new facility. Lam also said Quanta will acquire rental space in Cambridge, Mass., near MIT.

Quanta manufactures laptop computers for many of the world's top PC companies including Apple Computer, Dell Computer, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Quanta, which also makes mobile phones, LCD televisions, and storage products, is projected to log $12 billion in sales this year.

According to the MIT-Quanta announcement, TParty's goal is "to create new systems for the development and seamless delivery of information services in a world of smart devices and sensors. This will require reengineering and an extension of the underlying technical infrastructure, the creation of new interfaces, and exploring new ways of managing and accessing information."

If that sounds familiar, it is because it is reminiscent of the goals of Project Oxygen. Begun in 2000, Oxygen got underway with funding from Acer Group, Hewlett-Packard, Nippon Telegraphy and Telephone, Nokia Corp., Royal Philips Electronics, and the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). But the project was hampered when Dertouzos died unexpectedly in 2001.

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