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Microsoft Research Projects for Sale

Microsoft will put some of the fruits of its $5-billion-per-year R&D operation on the auction block, offering to license the technologies to entrepreneurs for a fee and a cut of the profits.

The new business concern is called Microsoft IP Ventures. Microsoft hopes the project will speed the movement of its intellectual property into the broader market.

The approach could help Microsoft avoid the reputation of the fabled Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, which is known for incubating many computer technologies such as the computer mouse and the graphical user interface in a world-class research center that the company was unable to convert into revenue.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, notes that much of his division's work gets plowed back into Microsoft products, but he suggests there aren't always immediate applications in Windows or Microsoft servers for the technologies.

"At any given time, there are hundreds of projects under way at Microsoft. IP Ventures provides yet another vehicle for extending this reach and delivering innovations to customers in a variety of areas," Rashid says.

The model for the program is a Pacific Northwest-based technology company called Inrix Inc. that received an exclusive license for predictive, real-time traffic technology from Microsoft Research. Based on the technology, Inrix is building a business on delivering traffic information services nationwide to service providers, device manufacturers, Web sites and mobile solution providers.

Among the technologies Microsoft is immediately making available to entrepreneurs are face detection; natural language processing; cartoon generation; digitally signed, tamper-proof, biometric ID cards; gesture-based text input and device navigation; audio correction algorithms for speakers; intelligent mobile browsing of large images; a mixed-media online collaborative environment; and data visualization tools.

The full list of available technologies is here.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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