Microsoft Launching Its Google Labs

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After bringing Yahoo researcher Gary Flake into the Redmond fold last year, Microsoft has decided to make him the leader of their “Live Labs” research and development effort.

ZDNet reported how Flake will head the Live Labs effort. Members of Microsoft Research and MSN will be part of Live Labs as Microsoft seeks to speed up the company’s glacial development cycles.

In the article, Flake acknowledged what most observers already knew about Microsoft:

“Historically, the software industry has been an industry in which it was fine to have months or years in between product cycles,” Flake said. “That is something that has been part of Microsoft’s processes as well.”

The effort looks like an attempt to match some of Google’s success with its Google Labs. Projects like Gmail got their start in Google Labs, and for a time delivered new products to the public at a dizzying pace. Microsoft also plans a complementary Search Labs component to focus on improving search

He acknowledged the perception that Live Labs would compete with Google Labs as well as Yahoo’s research efforts:

“To the extent this helps us in any sort of competition, that’s great, but that’s actually a side effect,” Flake said. “It’s a happy side effect, nonetheless.”

Microsoft announced its Windows Live and Office Live projects in November 2005. Windows Live debuted online as Live.com; Later, Microsoft folded its Virtual Earth and Maps & Directions projects into Windows Live Local, which included “bird’s eye imagery” of a dozen US cities.

Office Live should launch early in 2006. The company sent emails to those on its beta test signup list to remind them about Office Live and detailed the services it plans to make available on a subscription basis to small businesses that end up participating in the full release.

Flake also coined a new buzzword in the report to replace the oft-repeated Web 2.0 reference to new technology based around the concept of web services:

“This pattern is not merely about new applications,” Flake said. “It’s about a revolution in how we create, share and refine anything that can be digitally encoded–be it news and information, artistic forms, scientific breakthroughs, personal communications, economic transactions, and, yes, even software. This is not Web 2.0. It’s World 2.0.”

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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