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I would like to thank the broad computing research community which has taken the time to share its thoughts and concerns about the recent closure of our research lab in Silicon Valley. I share with all of you a strong belief in the value of fundamental research and its importance for the long-term viability of our company, our industry and our society, and want to reassure you of Microsoft’s commitment to fundamental research. Unfortunately, no organization – governmental, industrial or academic – is immune to change and the technology business in particular is defined by rapid evolution. Technology businesses need to constantly adapt in order to survive. In July, our new CEO, Satya Nadella, discussed how Microsoft would transform to be the productivity and platform company for a mobile-first, cloud-first world, and evolve its culture to be more nimble. This transformation included reducing our workforce by 18,000 jobs. Each organization within Microsoft, including Microsoft Research, is accountable for driving changes in culture and organization, and each has to participate in the job reductions. No one at Microsoft feels good about the fact that a significant number of our friends and colleagues were laid off. These people contributed to the success of Microsoft over many years. As one can readily imagine, the decisions made about how the cuts were implemented within MSR were extremely complicated and personally painful. We feel with you the sense of loss that has been evoked by the closing of our Silicon Valley lab. We also understand the concerns that have been raised about the impact of the SVC layoffs on certain parts of the community. We appreciate the community effort in helping those who have been impacted in the process, and we will be part of this effort.
Please understand, though, that despite these layoffs, Microsoft maintains its commitment to fundamental research at a historically high level. Microsoft Research still stands strong at 1000+ persons in labs worldwide, making it one of the largest research institutions of its kind in the world, either industrial or academic. Microsoft Research continues to be one of the very few organizations in industry that does true academic style open research. We will continue to partner with the academic research community not only in moving forward the state of the art in computing but also in developing computing talent around the world. As he was retiring from his role as Chief Research Officer more than a year ago, the founder of Microsoft Research, Rick Rashid, said that what he cared about most was that Microsoft Research and its people would stay true to its values: a commitment to fundamental research and a commitment to creating a future, both for Microsoft, and for the field of computing. I assure you that those values have not changed.
-Harry Shum, Executive Vice President, Technology & Research
In preparation for my recent trip to Guarujá, Brazil, I did what any tech savvy eight-year-old would do: I searched the web for information about my destination. One of the top search results was a site that offered “41 Things to Do in Guarujá.” But from my point of view, that website failed to mention the most meaningful thing to do in Guarujá: attend the Microsoft eScience Workshop 2014, October 20–22.
Held in conjunction with the 10th IEEE International Conference on e-Science, the workshop provides three days of thought-provoking discussions and presentations on dealing with data-driven scientific research. But perhaps the most significant moment of the event for me came this morning when I had the honor of presenting the eighth annual Jim Gray eScience Award to Paul Watson, an innovative computer scientist who has made ground-breaking contributions to the field of eScience.
Paul is professor of computer science and director of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University in the UK. His many contributions to eScience over the past 10 years include establishing a leading center in support of the UK e-Science Initiative. Since 2007, he has focused on the design of e-Science Central, a cloud-based, science-as-a-service platform that has become a main research vehicle in such areas as provenance, scalability, formal methods, and federated clouds. Paul’s 2011 paper, “A Multi-Level Security Model for Partitioning Workflows over Federated Clouds,” an incisive discussion of using federated clouds to meet the security requirements of applications, won a Best Paper award at IEEE CloudCom 2011.
Additionally, Paul’s work since the 1980’s as a designer of the Alvey Flagship and the Esprit EDS systems, together with his research projects in scalable information management, embody the type innovation in eScience that Jim Gray would have appreciated—and are exactly the kinds of achievements that the Jim Gray eScience Award was created to recognize.
Well done, Paul.
—Harold Javid, Director, Microsoft Research
Top university students from mainland China and Taiwan gathered in Beijing for the 14th annual Microsoft Student Summer Camp.
From August 18 to 21, 2014, some 180 students descended on Microsoft’s Beijing West Campus for the fourteenth Microsoft Student Summer Camp. The students, representing more than 30 top universities in mainland China and Taiwan, were the latest group to benefit from this annual event, which has attracted more than 2,200 students since its inception. The theme of this year’s camp, Urban Dreamer, inspired the students to conceive of ambitious solutions that use the latest Microsoft technologies.
The camp commenced with a motivational session that focused on the many research possibilities for today’s computer scientists. Feng Zhao, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, highlighted Microsoft Research’s talent and programs, and then researchers from Microsoft Research Asia introduced their latest projects, many accompanied by compelling demos.
A student discusses a technical issue with Hong Tan, senior researcher, and Tim Pan, director, Microsoft Research Asia.
Program managers and engineers from Bing, Microsoft Azure, Kinect for Windows, and Windows Online Store were also present, interacting with the students and introducing them to cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence agents XiaoIce and Cortana, as well as Microsoft Azure, Kinect for Windows v2, and Surface Pro 3—tools that can help students who are pursuing technological innovations.
Students receive hands-on training in using the newest Surface Pro features.
The students then took part in a series of dialogs, panels, and roundtables, during which they discussed their personal goals and career aspirations. These forums gave students who are members of the Microsoft Technology Club an opportunity to talk with their managers about case studies and projects.
Research program managers discuss focus topics with the students.
Then it was time to focus on the camp’s theme: Urban Dreamer. Given a set of urban challenges to solve, the students were divided into 10 groups to brainstorm ideas on urban computing and develop solutions that use Microsoft technology. Team Various Solutions took honors for creating the best solution. Their proposed app uses Windows Phone technology to record electric usage throughout a community, ranking customers according to their average consumption. The app also lets collaborating partners offer discounts to energy conscious households. Thanks to this incentive mechanism, the app can help promote energy conservation.
The camp culminated with a stage presentation and demo show that allowed selected students to display their work to Microsoft employees, interns, and other students. All that remained after that was the farewell party, complete with a rousing group sing-along. Then we said our good-byes, but it was not a sad occasion, as we are confident that these talented students will benefit from this close interaction with leading researchers and exposure to the latest technologies.
Organizers and students sing together at the summer camp farewell party.
We’re inspired by the students’ enthusiasm to create a better future, evident in such comments as this, from Weizheng Xu of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The camp helped me see the world-changing power of technology and science. I hope one day that I can make outrageous ideas come true, and that together with my fellow dreamers, we can change the world!” That’s our wish, too, for all the students who made this year’s Student Summer Camp the best ever.
—Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia