A representative from the company tells us that roughly 50 people lost their jobs as a result, and the research that was occurring in the Silicon Valley location–namely privacy and distributed systems–will be redistributed to the three other Microsoft Research labs in the U.S. (in Redmond, Cambridge, and NYC). The 11 global Microsoft Research facilities, consisting of about 1,000 researchers, and Microsoft Research grants at universities around the world are unaffected.
For those familiar with Microsoft Research’s work, this news is a frightening prospect. Microsoft Research projects represent the most visionary, highly experimental arm of the company. Microsoft Research has turned floors into interactive mirrors, transformed walls into explosive televisions, created computers that read body language, and even funded artist residencies to hack the company’s products with Microsoft’s help. Put simply, Microsoft Research is the coolest part of Microsoft. It’s the weird and wild part that, who knows, could conjure up a key innovation that puts Microsoft back in the fight against peers like Apple and Google.
But Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, isn’t an experiences guy. He’s an infrastructure guy. He an engineer made his name at Microsoft by working on what Time so aptly calls the company’s “invisible products“–like server software and Microsoft’s cloud technology. Upon taking the helm, Nadella has declared that Microsoft is a “productivity and platform company.” Productivity and platforms aren’t weird and wild. They sound like business. Worse, they sound like work.
As the cuts continue, Nadella and the rest of Microsoft would do well to remember that some of the company’s best products of today were born from the labs of Microsoft Research. In fact, the division has actually made a whole list of them in case the rest of the company ever forgets.