Ozzie FUSEs social media teams in Microsoft reorg

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Lili cheng

For months now we’ve been wondering when Microsoft was going to start making moves in the social media space. Rumors of talks with Twitter have been swirling at all levels of the company, but now a subtle re-org may shed light on what Microsoft might do internally to shore up its presence in the RealTime Wave. Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie has announced the formation of Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, a new group led by general manager Lili Cheng. FUSE Labs is being seeded with a range of related talent and software by combining much of Lili’s Creative Systems Group with Rich Media Labs and Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA. In the past, she’s been able to move social technologies from the labs into product.

In an internal memo, Ozzie talks about the growing vortex of social media and realtime:

For many years, technology-based ‘social’ innovations have been most commonly viewed through the lenses of communications and collaboration: messaging, chat, calls, meetings, conferences, co-editing, document sharing, collaboration, multiplayer gaming and the like.

More recently, many factors have begun to transform all that which is ‘social’: the ever-present, high-bandwidth internet both wired and wireless; the ease of connecting people; the dramatic rise in digital cameras, camera phones and ‘app-capable’ phones; net-connected game consoles & TVs; and so on.

Myriad scenarios involving the notion of ‘social’ have now gone far beyond communications and collaboration and are transforming experiences that are key to our customers and key to our business, in leisure & entertainment; productivity & teamwork; experiences extending how we use the OS itself.

The three groups being combined have concrete skills and code in areas where ‘social’ meets sharing; where ‘social’ meets real-time; where ‘social’ meets media; where ‘social’ meets search; where ‘social’ meets the cloud plus three screens and a world of devices.

FUSE Labs will bring more coherence and capability to those advanced development projects where they’re already actively collaborating with product groups to help them succeed with ‘leapfrog’ efforts. Working closely with MSR and across our divisions, the lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company’s extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity.

Cheng, who will report directly to Ozzie, moves from Microsoft Research (MSR) and her Creative Systems team, which most recently produced Kodu, which teaches kids how to create games and stories on the Xbox. Previously, Cheng was in the Windows division where she managed the User Experience teams for Windows Vista. Before that, she ran the Social Computing Group within MSR, which developed projects such as Wallop and VChat. Cheng first joined Microsoft in 1995 as part of the Virtual Worlds Group within MSR.

Reading between the lines, Cheng’s ability to surface technology from the labs has now been focused on more immediate concerns. This mirrors Microsoft’s success with Bing, which has emerged with many MSR features as part of its well-received search engine. Most recently, some of the Visual Search features debuted at TechCrunch 50 take advantage of Silverlight deep zoom technologies. It’s not a stretch to assume that these features will be laced throughout whatever social media constructs might as Office Web Apps hit the beta streets later this year.
Cheng will retain most of her original team from Redmond while traveling to Cambridge to consolidate the other teams. Kostas Mallios, general manager of the Rich Media Lab, will continue to report to Ozzie and take on business development responsibilities assisting the incubations within Ozzie’s org. Reed Sturtevant, managing director of the Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA, has decided to pursue interests outside Microsoft.

Photo credit: Flickr/Joi Ito

  • http://newgadgets.dailytidbit.com/new-gadgets/ozzie-fuses-social-media-teams-in-microsoft-reorg/ New Gadgets | Ozzie FUSEs social media teams in Microsoft reorg

    […] Original post by TechCrunchIT […]

  • http://www.techcrunchit.com/2009/10/07/ozzie-on-the-realtime-wave/ Ozzie on the realtime wave

    […] June, I spent several days on the Microsoft campus talking with Microsoft executives about the impact of realtime and the emerging era of cloud computing. My conversation with Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie […]

  • http://www.advertisespace.com Chad

    If Microsoft bought or built twitter…

    – “Are you SURE you want to tweet that?”
    – “Someone is trying to follow you, Do you want to Allow that or deny?”
    – “You are about to enter 140 characters into the tweet box, ARE YOU SURE you want to do that??”

    • http://amagard.wordpress.com/ Axel Magard

      – “Click SHUTUP! to tweet…”

  • Jeff Garlin

    “Cheng was in the Windows division where she managed the User Experience teams for Windows Vista”

    Ouch.

    • Your Mom

      Your comment only serves to prove that Jeff Garlin is an idiot. Is it that she is more accomplished than you? Or, is it simply that she is a woman? BTW, Vista kicks ass.

  • Jeff Garlin

    Oh, forgot the usual corrections:

    – “Visual Search features debuted at TechCrunch 50 take advantage of Silverlight deep zoom technologies.” – not technically true, Visual Search doesn’t use deep zoom. It’s uses Silverlight as a programming model, i.e. like flash/actionscript, but that’s nothing to do with deepzoom nee:seadragon MSR.

    – “It’s not a stretch to assume that these features will be laced throughout whatever social media constructs might as Office Web Apps hit the beta streets later this year.” – you owe us a verb here. Typo.

    – “Reed Sturtevant, managing director of the Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA, has decided to pursue interests outside Microsoft.” – he must be pretty excited about Ray’s vision, or rather he has bought into it a lot less that you seem to have already Steve…

    • Jeff Garlin

      I forgot to mention, I am not really qualified to make these judgments, but it is common for me to talk out of my ass. I am bitter because throughout my career I have been passed over constantly in favor of youger more qualified people, many of whom were women. I am a lonely, hate filled loser.

  • Unimpressed

    Cheng has been recycled in derivations of this kind of role for the last 10 years in Microsoft Research with no bottomline revenue impact to the company. Ozzie’s “incubations” (don’t forget also about the ill-fated “Live Labs”) haven’t gotten anywhere on their own, with the exception of the Seadragon acquisition which is now called Photosynth…

    Microsoft Research will go down in history as a huge waste of resources for the company… they should instead be sold off to Intellectual Ventures for their patent portfolio because they sure aren’t amounting to any meaningful advance from a shareholder standpoint.

    • Smilk

      Your comment is unimpressive. It is obvious why you are commenting on a blog rather than making important business decisions.

  • mattmac

    lili and her team have delivered:
    – the first social network at MS (wallop, spun out in 2006 because nobody knew what to do with it)
    – chunks of the search experience in Windows today, plus more coming
    – social features in outlook 2010
    – social features in sharepoint 2010
    – the first large-scale wiki inside Microsoft
    – kodu, cutting-edge kids programming
    – many key patents in social computing, many in product development today
    – new social features shipping in bing tomorrow
    …while still in research

    This is first time running a product-scale org. Stay tuned. Surprises guaranteed.

  • http://www.nextatom.com/?p=275 Microsoft creates social media lab | nextATOM

    […] Microsoft’s product groups aggressively trying to position the tech giant as a leader in the “Enterprise 2.0″ (basically taking the fundamental elements of social media to the enterprise).  This is a nice […]

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/10/15/people-on-the-move-in-the-social-media-industry-oct-15-2009/ People on the Move in the Social Media Industry: Oct 15, 2009 « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing

    […] gets serious about Social Computing and launches the Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, a new group led by general manager Lili Cheng that will focus on software and services that are […]

  • http://jongillardi.com/web-strategist-by-jeremiah-owyang/people-on-the-move-in-the-social-media-industry-oct-15-2009/ People on the Move in the Social Media Industry: Oct 15, 2009 » A Day in the Life of Jonathan “Jon” Gillardi… aka “Johnny Montana”

    […] gets serious about Social Computing and launches the Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, a new group led by general manager Lili Cheng that will focus on software and services that are […]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George_Eberstadt/741664497 George Eberstadt

    Good luck in your next project, Reed!

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