I'm at the Microsoft Search Champs in Redmond and Gary William Flake, ex Chief Scientist at Overture and now a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, has announced a new initiative called Live Labs. The Internet is now a mirror of the physical world His speech to the Search Champs attendees (which was non-NDA) was mostly a high level talk about The Internet Singularity, which is an extension of Ray Kurzweil's Singularity theory - but applied to the Internet. Basically it's a deeper coupling between online and offline worlds, leading to innovation/acceleration in business and life. This theory directly led to Microsoft's new vision for research and development - called Live Labs. Dr Flake has written a document entitled The Live Labs Manifesto, which has details.
Gary has posted a message about the Live Labs announcement on the official site:
"Earlier today at the Search Champs event I announced the formation of Live Labs, an exciting new partnership between MSN and MSR. I also announced that Live Labs has sponsored a new set of academic research grants, 10 MSR PhD Fellowships, and the acquisition of SeaDragon, an innovative technology startup. This is all really exciting stuff and it was nice to be able to announce it to the Search Champs directly, since they had great follow-up questions that provoked a lively discussion!"
I'll analyze Live Labs some more later, but I was very impressed by the Internet Singularity theory. Gary summarized it by noting that the Internet is increasingly becoming a mirror of the physical world. The physical world becomes instrumented by the virtual world. It's impressive stuff and great to see Microsoft taking this kind of Internet theory on board. As noted in Gary's document, Microsoft is trying to become more like a startup in the way it functions:
"...we will deliberately not do many things that are already well-established within Microsoft. Instead we will seek to connect complementary efforts or to fill existing voids, so as to maximize impact for effort. Our bias will be to focus at intersections: between science and engineering, tactical and strategic, users and businesses, vertical and horizontal, short-term and long-term, internal and external, but above all – between problems and solutions. Like a startup, we seek to create entirely new value by making new combinations."
Microsoft is entering into a fascinating Internet-driven software era and - to my eyes - they are meeting the challenges head-on. It'll be interesting to see how they live up to the following words (at the end of the manifesto document):
"A Call to Action -- As we launch, expand, and evolve Live Labs, we will need many partners to succeed. Whether you are an engineer, scientist, product designer, leader, or are merely just curious, there will be ample opportunity to collaborate. If our vision for the evolution of the Internet, its impact on society, and Microsoft’s role in this process resonates with you, then please join us in what we believe is a historic time for Microsoft and the world."