Microsoft Opens Research Center In Cambridge, Mass.

Microsoft Research New England is the company's sixth research center and the first to be located on the East Coast.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

February 4, 2008

3 Min Read

After a long absence, Microsoft is returning to Cambridge, Mass., to carry out important research. The software company announced on Monday that it will open a research center in Cambridge near Harvard and MIT.

Microsoft's founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote Microsoft's first Basic program at the Harvard Computation Center in the 1970s.

The new center, to be called Microsoft Research New England, is Microsoft's sixth research center and the first to be located on the East Coast. Jennifer Tour Chayes, a longtime Microsoft researcher, has been named managing director of the new lab. A researcher in mathematics, physics, and computer science, Chayes also has been a professor at the University of Washington and the University of California, Los Angeles.

"We're going to New England to break through barriers between core computer science and social sciences and to do fundamental research that can lead to deeper insights and better computing experiences in an increasingly online world," Chayes said in a statement.

Chayes, who joined Microsoft Research in 1997, has directed research groups at the company in the fields of mathematics, theoretical computer science, and cryptography. She is co-inventor of more than 20 patents and the co-author of nearly 100 scientific papers.

The move by Microsoft to open the research center is the software firm's second major move in the Bay State in recent days: last month Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Norway's Fast Search and Transfer, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in suburban Boston.

The company had been criticized for neglecting Massachusetts, particularly by IBM and Sun Microsystems, which maintain large employee payrolls in the state; the companies were involved in a squabble with Microsoft over office software formats at the time.

It may be a coincidence, but Microsoft's new focus on Massachusetts has followed the elevation of Ray Ozzie to chief technical officer at the company. Ozzie, whose Groove Networks in suburban Boston was acquired by Microsoft, has promoted the Boston area to Microsoft, although he works in Microsoft headquarters in Redmond as well as in the Boston area.

In addition, Microsoft recently hired prominent software designer Reed Sturtevant to operate its new Boston Concept Development Center in Cambridge. Sturtevant, who developed key products at Lotus Development and Eons, will oversee the development of products there.

In announcing the new research center, Microsoft said the operation will help researchers interact with the company's incubation centers as well as with its newly acquired companies in the area. The research center will be located in offices near MIT.

Microsoft indicated the new research center underscores its commitment to developing pure research along the lines of the old Bell Labs, the way it was before the original AT&T was broken up two decades ago.

In a statement Venkatesh Narayanamurti, dean of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said: "While most companies, and even government organizations, are shrinking or eliminating these kinds of investments, Microsoft's ongoing commitment to basic research makes it a notable exception."

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