Two Microsoft Research projects worth noting: Microsoft's 'Newport' and another 'Courier'

Two Microsoft Research projects worth noting: Microsoft's 'Newport' and another 'Courier'

Summary: Microsoft researchers are developing a new collaborative mobile-phone application codenamed "Newport" that is designed to facilitate the sharing of content (like photos and notes), as well as location, during phone calls. It seems there was another Microsoft Research project codenamed "Courier" (but not the Courier tablet) that may be a precursor to Newport.


Microsoft researchers are developing a new collaborative mobile-phone application codenamed "Newport" that is designed to facilitate the sharing of content (like photos and notes), as well as location, during phone calls.

Newport is focused on maintaining user privacy, but also on bridging the PC-phone gap. From a newly published white paper about Newport I found on the Microsoft Research site:

"Beyond the value of sharing with the person you are communicating with, sharing potentially sensitive context information such as your location only during a phone call may address some of the privacy concerns raised by systems that constantly broadcast your location to your contacts. We also designed Newport to bridge a gap between phones and computers, inspired by frustration that mobile phones and computers with complementary functions are often used in isolation, even when both devices are available."

The Newport whitepaper cites as an example the ability of the Newport desktop client to recognize, via Bluetooth, when a user is on a mobile call, and then subsequently provides additional functionality on a PC to support sharing and collaboration.

The coauthors of the Newport white paper are Microsoft researcher A.J. Brush and Junius A. Gunaratne, with the University of California at Irvine.

An interesting side note: When clicking on a few of the footnote links in the Newport whitepaper, I found a link to a Microsoft Research project codenamed "Courier." The MSR Courier looks to have nothing to do with the Courier tablet device that Microsoft was incubating -- and last week, acknowledged that it had eliminated.

The Microsoft Research Courier, described in a white paper dating back to 2008, is described as "a system that leverages the storage capacity and communication capabilities of the mobile phone to facilitate the viewing and exchange of PC-based documents when users are away from their desks." It sounds like more of a synchronization technology and possibly one of the precursors to Newport.

Here's a diagram of the Microsoft Research Courier from the white paper. (Click on the picture below to enlarge.)

At the end of the Newport paper, I also found a mention a Microsoft Research project codenamed "Menlo" -- a codename I've been trying to decipher since I first got a tip on it a few months ago. More on Menlo in my next post....

While Microsoft Research projects may take years to turn into commercial products/technologies -- if they ever do -- many of those projects end up influencing or filtering into Microsoft's commercial product line.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Telcos


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • wow, mary brings us new vaporware ...

    ... fresh from the redmondians or softies, as she likes to call them. one
    vaporware "product" canceled the next one right around the corner.
    thank you, mary!
    banned from zdnet again and again
    • Wow, this mortal coil brings us more information

      as he has more insiders knowledge of Microsoft. Wow, it is very nice to
      see such informative responses from him.
      Ram U
      • i have no information

        and obviously neither does mary-jo. i am waiting for actual products
        coming out of this "research labs". what did they have over the last few
        years? win 7, office 2010. wow, i call that innovation coming from
        research. common, this whole microsoft is innovative, research, lab drivel
        is a vaporware ploy, pure pr.

        don't you get tired of this? it is so predictable. don't you at least find it a
        little odd that a few days after courier was canceled, mary-jo here seems
        to be in a rush to present us "newport"?
        banned from zdnet again and again
        • Look at F#, it came from MS research labs, it was in research

          for a while and came to limelight with VS 2008. There are few more like
          that. If you want, I can provide some more references. Come on, if you
          don't know something, please don't rush to post. It clearly shows your
          ignorance in that specific matter.
          Ram U
          • f#

            a programming language. sorry, but that is lame. how about some real
            banned from zdnet again and again
          • if you think F# is lame, how about

            checking this slideshow, I think it would throw some light in there,
            Ram U
        • MJ has been tracking MS codenames for YEARS now ...

          ... she's certainly NOT "rushed" out a new codename just to wind YOU up.
    • re: vaporware

      Microsoft brough plenty of great products out of their research i.e. Microsoft Surface, World Wide Telescope, F#, Songsmith, and many more.

      So while not all research projects turn into commercial products, many do, and many others end up influencing other Microsoft products.
      • And let's not forget ...

        C# itself.

        Gyro which became C# generics

        Spec# which fostered C# 4.0's code contracts.

        Various search algorithms which are used in Index and Search Servers, Windows Search, Bing.

        Various OS kernel memory management and scheduling algorithms which are now employed in Windows kernel.

        Research that emerged in Surface & Multi-Touch.


        MS Research also releases well respected research in the area of graphics and image analysis, often presenting at SIGGRAPH and elsewhere.

        Go take a look at MS' research sites - there really is some very interesting work going on in there.
  • RE: Tablet Personal Assistant

    In conversations that I have had with my brother, he has repeatetly told me how pleased and happy he is with his Ipad. Lately, though, he has expressed his wish for a tablet with netbook/laptop functionality as a complement to the Ipad and a relacement for the others. It only makes sense that eventually someone will develop that form factor. It could be from HP/Palm or the NotionInk Adam or the courier or Asus, etc but it will happen. I am not disparaging on looking at evlution.
  • RE: Two Microsoft Research projects worth noting: Microsoft's 'Newport' and another 'Courier'

    Another MSFT innovation:

    Project Natal
  • Photosynth (Bing Maps), Pivot Viewer, Deep Zoom...

    ... on the side of graphics. @this mortal coil: The reason MJ is mentioning these projects now is because there is movement now that Microsoft will present some papers in an upcoming scientific gathering.
    Roque Mocan