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back to article Microsoft forms 'Special Projects' black ops team

Microsoft has secretly formed a "Special Projects" sub-tentacle of its Microsoft Research limb in an apparent attempt to out-black-ops Google X. This sinister group is "tasked with working on disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society". Although MS is remaining tight-lipped on when it was formed and who …

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Coat

Internet-disseminating baboons?

Oh, that would the users, then.

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So...

Microsoft has a Q-branch now ?

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Paris Hilton

Nothing new here

Haven't MS always had special ops?

It is an interesting appointment and the announcement probably indicates backdoors will probably be harder to find now?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing new here

Slow news day - this must date back to...oh, 1986...

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Trollface

Huh?

> "tasked with working on disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society"

Didn't they already release Windows 8?

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Meh

Re: Huh?

And don't forget OOXML...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huh?

Those don't benefit society, although I'm hard pressed to actually think of any Microsoft "thing" that ever did :P

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This post has been deleted by its author

SPG?

"Reader Richard Bryant says MS is probably unaware of the significance of the acronym "SPG" on this side of The Pond."

Weirdly I clicked on the link expecting it to be a picture of Vivian's homicidal Glaswegian hamster from the Young Ones.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: SPG?

Quite so, and named in honour of the Met's finest.

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Re: SPG?

"There's no room for men like you in my force, Whitaker. I'm transferring you to the SPG"

(NTNOCN)

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Re: SPG?

XP also means "experimental" over here.

Unfortunately "Windows experimental" never got to production quality 8)

Cheers

Jon

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Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

They do a lot of things that they don't talk much about - I saw Craig Charles once talk of their teledildonics experiments, which I'd never heard of, but given how often Microsoft products go down on you isn't probably too much of a surprise.

Most other tech companies probably have similar departments.

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Trollface

Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

Given that Google is developing the self-driving automobile, it seems prescient to expect Microsoft, in its panic to capture mobile market share, to embark on a stroke-and-stroll research technology reminiscent of the Monty Python concept of Silly Walks. Fondle them here, there, everywhere (beware open manholes). Aha: something suitable for Windows 8.x.x)

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

Apparently those experiments were a success:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11444758.htm

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Happy

Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

"Given that Google is developing the self-driving automobile"

But MS have had the self-crashing computer for ages...

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

Most tech companies do have 'special projects' departments, including Microsoft.

Microsoft Research is a different kettle of fish as an international organization working with academics to explore new ideas without profit-making goals. Occasionally some product oriented work hits the public eye, such as kinect research done at MSR Cambridge. IBM Research used to be more like this but has scaled back (its no longer present in the UK) and become more commercially oriented. Other large companies like Apple, Google and Oracle have nothing similar so in this respect Microsoft should be commended for putting resources into an activity aimed at the public good.

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

So let's see then...

the group's "Principal Member of Technical Staff" explained it would tackle "hard and interesting problems", specifically "in the areas of systems, networking, distributed computing, UX design, devices, cloud, mobility, machine learning/artifical intelligence, big data and datacenter technologies".

I'm trying to think of one of these areas where Microsoft has been an innovator in the first place. UX design maybe, but I don't think the 'hard and interesting problems' amount to anything more than making their own Win8x interfaces appeal to more than Campi Micronormalus. I know what I mean....

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Microsoft Teledildonics Slogan

Where do you want THIS to go today?

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

Microsoft Research really is a good thing. I'm sure MS is aware of how the public views them, so they don't make a lot of noise about Research. But the research done at Research is everywhere. It's in the networks of wireless carriers, intercontinental communications systems, in the number crunching done with the LHC at CERN and the SNS at ORNL. The list is fairly endless. Microsoft Research is also responsible for developing many of the foundations that would become smartphones and tablets as well. All the smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft Research really turns out some top notch stuff, too bad Microsoft Not Research fucks it all up once they start coding.

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

"Microsoft should be commended for putting resources into an activity aimed at the public good."

Bwahahahahahahahahahaha! You think for one nano-second that this has ANYTHING to do with the public good? Or on reflection you might want to consider whether some PR drongo dropped in that term "because it reads better".

The only reason MS are doing this is because their market share in the overall tech market is sliding relentlessly, not because they aren't selling more OS, server and productivity software, but because the internet, tablets, phones, smart devices and the whole internet of things is passing Microsoft by like a 20k road race passing a fat old bloke gawping from the pavement.

This skunkworks project is a reaction to Microsoft's belated realisation that they are the gawping fat man, the problem is that the reason they became so corpulent was the massive success in desktop and OS productivity. No growth businesses ever got the visibility or support, they never passed any threshold of materiality, and the core businesses simply became unreactive cash cows. Those cash cows stopped listening to customers years ago (eg fixing the crummy help and syntax issues or appalling chart functionality in Excel), and drove their own agenda (like ribbon interfaces). They have failed to make their software secure for the internet age after a decade of claiming to try, despite finding time to foist dog's breakfast's like Vista and W8 on the world. Can a business as non-customer centric as Microsoft has become ever build new relevance? We'll see, but I doubt it. I wouldn't trust them with cloud solutions, I'd convert to open source rather than buy their software on subscription, and I wouldn't touch WinPho unless I was actually paid.

Critically, this isn't because their solutions don't work, it is that I (and I suspect the rest of the world) don't love or desire Microsoft - we just need them as the current lowest common denominator in Office and OS. Look at things like Surface, and the most enthusiasm you'll hear is "that'll be worth a mint in twenty years". Nokia had a lot of customer goodwill and affection that under Elop's control they have squandered. Google I have no affection for, but lots of respect - they do a lot for me, I just need to keep an eye on what the actual cost to me is. Many people fawn over Apple hardware (and software sometimes).

But who looks forward to buying a Microsoft product, or takes pride in owning one?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

@Ledswinger. Microsoft Research has been around for over 20 years, hardly a reaction to the effect of the changing nature of computing technology on Microsoft market share as you suggest. You may want to question the psychology of philanthropy, or Bill Gates motivations but one can hardly deny it exists.

The glacial pace of some of Microsoft mainstream product development is another matter entirely.

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Re: Surely this is just Microsoft Research under a different name?

"Microsoft Research has been around for over 20 years, hardly a reaction to the effect of the changing nature of computing technology on Microsoft market share as you suggest"

I wasn't referring to the whole of Microsoft Research, but to the focus of the article, which is the (allegedly new) skunk works division that has been created. And I stand by my comments that this is a belated reaction to the market moving on past.

I suspect (being a charitable sort of person) that you've concatenated the content of my post with the starting one of this thread, since that started off asking if this was merely a rebrand of MS Research.

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Hell! Surely Microsoft have...

....had this disruptive technology department for decades now? Windows has been more disruptive to me in the workplace than anything else!

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Re: Hell! Surely Microsoft have...

Windows isn't disruptive;

Windows Update is.

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Re: Hell! Surely Microsoft have...

They both bloody are!

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Which begs the question

If they need this what the hell have all the megabrains at Microsoft Research been doing all these years

I don't think ideas were ever a problem, it seemed that the issue was getting them past the Machiavellian internal politics and support from a CEO with no technology vision.

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Re: Which begs the question

What have they been doing?

Same as they have always done copied others innovation.

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Special Projects Bureau

This sinister group is "tasked with working on disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society".

Including the secretive BALLMER* project.

*BALLocket Much like thE Register's

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Anonymous Coward

"tasked with working on disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society"

When have disruptive technologies ever benefited society?

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Joke

Microsoft Research?

Who knew?

Of course, maybe this isn't a joke.

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Re: Microsoft Research?

I know its a good laugh at an easy target, but its a little unfair. Credit where credit is due and all that. MS do some good research that is widely beneficial. Their whitepapers are excellent, and many of their outcomes are to be seen in games. One I have some experience of is Microsoft's research into automatic level of details which benefits all games companies, and I know even Sony 'exclusives' to have run their meshes through the MS tools, which are *free* with the DirectX SDK

The math involved in developing some of these areas is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Some examples:

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/hoppe/efficientpm.pdf

http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/79438/SanEtAl08.pdf

http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/146019/SymbolicDifferentiationInGPUShadersTechReport.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

Xerox PARC is trembling in fear

33years too late, Microsoft is about to innov8, maybe...

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Re: Xerox PARC is trembling in fear

....maybe not

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Flame

DT

Wasn't Windows '95 disruptive enough for you? Internet Explorer? Visual Basic? Outlook?

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