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Microsoft Research's new Special Projects Group aims to disrupt things

Microsoft is no stranger to advancing computing technologies, as they’re one of the largest employers of computer science PhDs in the world through their Microsoft Research initiative. Microsoft Research is concerned with evolving today’s technologies to be better, not necessarily inventing new categories. Now, according to All about Microsoft’s Mary Jo Foley, that’s about to change.

Foley reports from her sources that a Microsoft Research Special Projects group has been formed, and it’s headed by former DARPA innovation boss Norman Whitaker. The group is reportedly focused on "disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society" and it sounds a lot like Google X, which is Google’s advanced research division. That group works on crazy ideas like drones, self-driving cars and balloon-powered internet.

What exactly the group will come up with is not too clear, though Microsoft certainly has the resources – in terms of money and manpower – to make a competitive dent against Google, who is aggressively developing next-generation technologies.

Microsoft themselves have declined comment on the research division, though the term ‘Special Projects group’ is referenced in a recent job description (opens in new tab) from the company.

Read more at All About Microsoft.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

31 Comments
  • Sounds cool. Can't wait to see what they come up with.
  • For now, I just want to see them implementing the Interactive Live Tiles as soon as possible.
  • Windows phone, now available in hologram :P
  • Cortana haha!
  • Well, colour me excited! It'll be nice to hear about someone besides Google throwing out crazy new technologies that sound like they escaped from a vintage Doctor Who episode.
  • But Google's doesn't throw out new technology. They just buy it. There's a difference.
  • +620
  • Wish for Microsoft glass. I would definitely buy it. It would be nice addition to my 1020
  • As long as they don't call it Microsoft Glass and they aren't ridiculous looking.
  • How about "Window Pane" :v
  • That's actually cool
  • I want a dam Microsoft car!!
  • Time travel...lol
  • I can list several things that were truly innovative they threw away already (can you say Courier tablet?) but whats is even worse is that they shut down/throw away truly functional, popular programs such as Home Server, Zune, and Media Center which are unique and different.  Like I alwys say, 'Apple is Greedy, Google is Evil, but Microsoft is just Stupid'. . . I know, I know, What does that make me for sticking with them. . .  Windows phone and xbox are probably the only things keeping me from the dark side 
  • I couldn't agree more
    +520
  • Man I still think that Courier was one of the coolest things that Microsoft has ever come up with. I still think that they should make it. Even if I was the only one who would still buy it lol..
  • Zune didn't sell against the ipod. Media Center was available for many years and wasn't used by the vast majority of users. Courier look interesting, but can you imagine the price and battery life, not to mention weight, on a dual screen tablet. I bet it would have been a niche product if it was launched.  Microsft does plenty of stupid things but I'm not sure abandoning those products was stupid.
  • Well first of all I while it is debatable if MS supported the Zune player like they should have which methinks they stupidly did not what I was referring to was the killing off of the excellent Zune software which was then replaced with the terrible alpha software experiment known as xbox music.  No doubt that was STUPID! as well as short sighted considering it was the only thing pulling in new users and its Metro design was the basis of Windows phone.
    Now  Media center was another Metro design that they let languish.  It had so much potential and while they did support it they committed many errors in helping support cheap media extenders and it still to this day even as a lagacy program has at least 6-8 million users.
    Windows Home Server is another folly as it had become very popular as an easy to use for home backup and media server and it was cheap and I think MS decided it was eating into their small business servers market.  They hamstrung it then they finished it off.  Both Media Center and Home Server should have been supported to co-exist with the xbox one as a total home media server dvr backup, etc, etc... It could even have evolved into Home central control for lighting apliances, etc...  MS for all its money is a slow lumbering, stupid giant that is still missing the mark.. Unfortunately.  The thing I was getting at is that I cant stand greedy Apple with its convoluted iTunes or Evil Google who wants to be our helpful all knowing friend, so I will just have to stick with slow, lumbering stupid Microsoft who is sure kill anything I grow to love.
  • MS should open grocery stores! I'd totally do my grocery shopping in a Microsoft store! I'd call it "Microsoft Windows shopping" :D
  • Or Microsoft "Window" Shopping LOL :P
  • Strange that the policy was so limiting in both scope and vision. In fact, it may be the reason MSFT has become synonymous with trailing, not leading if their elite research groups have been basically tied to a tree all this time.
  • Haven't they had one forever? Is this different than the team that worked on the original surface table and such?
  • I searched Microsoft Research, found entity cube and am now very entertained.
  • the colaboration with the betalabs guys coming over from Nokia should be interesting to say the least..
  • Sounds really interesting...
    I, for one, would love to see a better implementation for email attachments - a file manager or sorter would be good also! Didn't think they'd need spec ops for that but I'm not complaining!
  • How about ice creams? MS should make next gen ice creams and I'm not even joking.
  • I thought these clowns were already doing this type of stuff. Are you trying to tell me that the terrible Xbox music experiences we have been dealing with could have been dealt to by this room of phd nerds after all this time?
  • Former DARPA chief is leading the group...hmmm...hope this doesnt represent a sinister alliance between MS and the US regime. Now all we need is the US govt using Windows OS to spy on almost the entire world.
  • That box [spying with Windows] was checked in 1985.
  •   Their first project should be a 3-D holographic version of Cortana to work on WP.
  • you should say "internet-powered balloon" instead of "ballon-powered balloon"