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Microsoft Plans To Expand Its Massachusetts Presence

The firm will lease 136,000 square feet in Cambridge, not far from where the firm's early code was written.
Microsoft, which has its origins in Massachusetts, has sometimes been criticized for neglecting the Bay State, but that complaint may be toned down with the news this week that the software colossus plans to nearly double its office space there.

The firm will lease 136,000 square feet in a Cambridge office tower overlooking the Charles River, not far from where Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the firm's early code on Digital Equipment Corporation machines for an early personal computer called the Altair. At present, Microsoft leases more than 180,000 square feet in locations scattered around the Boston area.

"The proximity to MIT is important," Ted MacLean, Microsoft's New England general manager, told the Boston Globe. "MIT has historically been a great source of job candidates for us and it will continue to be." Microsoft has also funded important research projects at MIT and operations at nearby Harvard University.

During a software formats debate that raged on for months in the mid-2000s, Microsoft's leading critics in the controversy -- IBM and Sun Microsystems -- each bragged that they had more than 4,000 employees in the state, way more than Microsoft's less-than-600-member Massachusetts work force. Eyebrows were raised high when legendary software researcher Ray Ozzie moved from Massachusetts to Microsoft headquarters in Washington state, even though he kept a home and office in the Bay State.

The Microsoft office deal follows by less than a month a decision by Google to expand an office in Cambridge's Kendall Square, around the corner from the new Microsoft offices. Google, too, has Massachusetts roots, as Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alta Vista search engine paved the way for Google and key Alta Vista employees joined Google in its early days.

The Microsoft office is something of a homecoming for Gates and for Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer -- both men attended Harvard University and both have contributed generously to their alma mater. Gates, who dropped out to start Microsoft, recently was awarded an honorary degree by Harvard.