Business Week has an interesting article on Rick Rashid who runs Microsoft's Research division. I think it is interesting to see that there is a path for people who want to do research but who also want to make a difference in products that everyday people use. An industry research setting, IBM and other large companies also have them, is one such path.
The Microsoft Research organization is modeled very much like a university research organization. And yet at the same time they often get to work with people who care creating products for today. It is an interesting mix. One more possible career path for budding computer scientests to think about.
You can read more about Rick Rashid at his official bio page. More information about Microsoft Research is available here.