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Want to license a piece of Microsoft research?

Want to license a piece of Microsoft research?

The Redmond software vendor has established a new division charged with licensing Microsoft-Research-developed technologies to startups and venture capitalists. Microsoft announced on Wednesday the formation of its new six-person IP Ventures group, as well as a list of 20 technologies developed by Microsoft Research that it plans to license in exchange for equity stakes in new ventures and/or royalty payments. Among the technologies Microsoft is offering to license is everything from Conference XP, a distance-learning program; to a mesh-networking program; to "Wallop," a social-networking application. Unlike IBM, which announced in January that it would make 500 of its patents available to the open-source community, Microsoft is not offering its technologies under any kind of open-source license or for free. "These are all things we believe have commercial value," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of business development for IP and licensing. "They will all be made available under equity arrangements, and later, royalty arrangements." Microsoft plans to bring the venture capitalists and start-up vendors to campus following their agreement to license these technologies so they can meet the developers and teams who created them. Microsoft also plans to provide the licensees with training to help them understand and use the technologies. The technologies that are available via IP Ventures are not cast-offs of which Microsoft has decided it wants no part, said Kaefer. "In most cases, these technologies, like (BioCert) secure ID cards, are not core to our business," Kaeffer said. "But in other cases, these technologies already are or are going to be part of our own products." But Kaefer did acknowledge that some researchers assigned to the teams responsible for the IP-Venture-licensed technologies would likely be assigned to other teams, over time. Lili Cheng, the head of Microsoft Research's social-computing team, for instance, recently was reassigned to the Windows Shell team to help with the next-generation digital-identity-management platforminterface design of Longhorn and future versions of Windowss. "Looking at the list of technologies, most of them appeal to niche markets, and wouldn't fit into the broad, horizontal software applications that Microsoft typically develops," said Matt Rosoff, a lead analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "I don't see Microsoft getting back into Wi-Fi hardware after its brief foray there, or getting into forensics or animation," Rosoff continued. However, "some of these technologies could eventually find their way into future Microsoft products, (such as) Conference XP finding its way into future collaboration products from the Information Worker group (maybe a successor to Live Meeting), and Microsoft Portrait might find its way into future Windows Mobile platforms. "But the company probably thought it could monetise these technologies more quickly by licensing them rather than waiting for them to be incorporated into products," Rosoff concluded. In exploring ways to make better use of the hundreds of Microsoft Research technologies, Microsoft looked at what other vendors, such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and IBM are doing, Kaefer said. "At first we thought we would be late to the game. But then we saw that few had found a way to interact successfully with startups in this space," Kaefer said. Kaefer said that Microsoft is looking to IP Ventures to spin off its research technologies in a way similar to what Xerox PARC and Bell Labs have done. IP Ventures will be part of Marshall Phelp's domain in Microsoft's law and corporate affairs organization. David Harnett will be the senior director spearheading the new IP unit, which will supplement the existing Microsoft Emerging Business Team that focuses on getting commercial Microsoft products into the hands of small businesses and startups. UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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