You know that Microsoft's stock has been quite flat those last five years. Consequently, people start asking questions about some of the biggest expense bucket of Microsoft that is: Microsoft Research.
Yes, Microsoft spends billions of Dollars in Researches and one may worry how those researches contribute to the revenue stream of the Company. Let me tell you how I do feel about that...
First and foremost, when you know that the company did register no less than 3,000 patents this last year alone, this is quite an impressive number. Not all patents will actually generate immediate revenue but as you may know, patents can be ... sold, shared or embedded into products and technologies. You'd be surprised about how many times companies agree on patent sharing for the best of the industry (so like "I give you free usage of my patented technology and you give me free usage of yours"). Money concerns apart, this provides great value to all of us as techno users and allows a world full of innovation.
Now, you see Microsoft research in very many areas and on hundreds of projects. I do feel good about that. That shows also how our technology pipeline looks and this is somehow the one asset of the company.
Research can show up at unexpected places like, for example, gaming! Simply look at the details of PGR: the lighting, the movements of the car, the dynamics of your driving skills, etc.
Research can also show up in our day to day productivity tools. How do you imagine Microsoft Word has the best grammar and spelling checker in the world? In French, the "Dictée du Balfroid" is known to be one of the most diffcult ... and Ms Word spellchecker did pass with 100% score! Isn't THAT impressive? How do you think Ms Outlook can "guess" an e-mail recipient with just of few keystrokes? How do you think Smarttags can show-up in a context-sensitive way while you type?
Now, research in Digital Imaging can make amazing things. Such as Face Recognition, or the ability to reconstruct a 3D environment with multiple photos, or this PlayAnywhere project by Andrew Wilson that I already talked about and many, many others.
Just see for yourself some of the products that Microsoft Research has contributed to. Also look at what the press is saying about it.
So, in a nutshell, I really consider that the Innovation Microsoft Research is bringing us really makes me love this company. I'm convinced that we should go on an invest the very same way ... in OUR future.