Story 2014-09-23 2SVB Microsoft staff cuts extend to Silicon Valley research lab

Microsoft staff cuts extend to Silicon Valley research lab

in microsoft on (#2SVB)
story imageAs Satya Nadella's axe continues to fall at Microsoft,
the corporation's Silicon Valley research lab has been the next to succumb to the severe round of staff reductions ongoing this year.
In a move that appears to reflect a new level of urgency to Nadella’s consolidation plans, the Redmond giant has closed one of its flagship engineering facilities and released dozens of world-class scientists into the job market – and the welcoming arms of its competitors. The Mountain View site reportedly employed a team of 75 that focused exploring new applications for distributed computing – the fundamental concept behind the cloud – in areas such as natural language search, data privacy and network security.

But although the lab itself is no longer operational, Microsoft is still clinging to its Silicon Valley research investment. Projects that were ongoing at the time of the termination have been transferred to other research facilitates along with key members of the original team, which indicates that business will continue more or less as usual at those sites for the foreseeable future.
While the cuts were met with stockholder approval, there's speculation Nadella's staff reductions are a strategy of short term gains that will jeopardize the corporation's long term prospects.
Reply 10 comments

A Common Trend (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-23 22:18 (#2SVC)

Unfortunately, this is a trend. I know from my industry, R&D is being cut. As the summary points out, short-term this is great because you reduce the headcount and sales of your current products are unaffected, but what happens when someone else comes along with a better value? If only someone could package a nice GNU/Linux or BSD that offered the average consumer a better value than Windows...

Re: A Common Trend (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-24 02:58 (#2SVR)

If only someone could package a nice GNU/Linux or BSD that offered the average consumer a better value than Windows...
This is so alien to me, what is missing? What magical awesomeness have I missed out on during the last decade thus depriving my life of joy and laughter and all things good?

Photoshop? Nah it can't be that, I mean it has to be something really impressive and I haven't even bothered installing Krita yet although I'm planning to (I do have InkScape and GIMP though). Nerflix? Don't use it but it's coming now isn't it? Games? The Steam is picking up but I don't need that either. Skype? Didn't Microsoft just kill that everywhere anyway?

What hidden gems are you hoarding Venkman! You better tell us or we'll slobber you :D

Re: A Common Trend (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2014-09-24 04:33 (#2SVS)

I see the opportunity as having two parts.
Part One--
Without touching the command line, manually running post-install scripts, or even using an "App Store", I want to see a distro that:
-My dad can use to run his small business and to look at adult entertainment sites
-My aunt can use to get on Facebook, upload photos and videos from her phone, and watch YouTube
-A college kid can use to write their lab report on in a format that the professor accepts, view their online textbooks and coursework, and on which they can run the specialized app that they need for their Biochem final paper on protein misfolding.

I have made every single one of the above cases work, but it took searching forums, wikis, and man pages. And there are times when once everything is working, a single upgrade can screw it all up due to dependency issues. For this reason, the number of people I convert to Linux is limited by my ability to help them troubleshoot.

Part Two--
Applications that can be a drop-in replacement for what people use on their Windows box. Yes, I know that such-and-such can open .docx (most of the time) and that WINE is pretty good as long as you use the right settings, but the average person does not want to go from what works now on Windows to a land of busted dependencies, abandoned software projects, command line, and constant fiddling to make things work like they did on Windows. A better value would be something that requires less effort, not more.

I love freedom and I love free and open source software. I hate the thought that people who would otherwise support FOSS may give up and stick with Windows due to their inability to get a Linux distro working on the level they would expect from a Windows box. A technically superior product that is harder to use is not a compelling replacement for something that "just works."

Re: A Common Trend (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-26 03:23 (#2SYD)

Hmm okay I have to say I still don't truly get it (it's still alien to me) except for the business part: sometimes one doesn't truly have a choice or simply can't afford the effort (like virtual machines), I think that's entirely valid and of course simple preference is entirely valid as well. GNU/Linux can't force people to use GNU/Linux or develop for GNU/Linux and that's a good thing :)

If I have a script on my Mint/MATE desktop I can open it (usually double-click just like in Windows) and allow it to be run as an executable (it asks). I've never done it except by accident and always said no so maybe it actually doesn't work (that would be surprising though, however just as in WIndows it will need to run with the appropriate permissions for what it's trying to do, Windows used to be a lot more permissive in that deparment and maybe they still are). Both Ubuntu and Mint has or had (in Ubuntu's case, haven't used any of their crazy new stuff) this behavior, maybe other distributions too, maybe only Gnome & Gnome-inspired stuff has it but probably all of them do.

Btw have you tried out Mint? For straight use it's pretty much the same as Windows was when I quit Windows, none of the new Windows nonsense and none of the new Ubuntu nonsense :D (but sadly systemd nonsense soon).

Since I'm not your father or aunt or in college I don't know precisely how bad those snags are, anyway here's my thoughts:
  • Maybe those porn sites use silverlight or other super-propriatory stuff (both non-free and with added cost/requirements) which does require lots of hoops and jumping like RealPlayer used to (don't know if that ancient stuff still exists/is used), that sounds like it would require work. Linux can't change things like that, they have no influence on it on their own just like if I made something propriatory and didn't allow others to easily use it without paying up (like XChat did/tried on Windows a few years back).
  • Your aunt's phone sounds like it's weird then again so much stuff is crippled these days; when I plug my (admittedly old non-Apple, non-Android, non-smartphone) mobile into the computer with the appropriate USB cable the computer opens up the folder on the phone and then I copypaste the pictures or videos or recordings or music or anything else I've put there. I've also done the same only by moving the microSD card between phone and computer (that was before I bought the USB cable). There's nothing Linux-specific about that, nor anything specific to the phone-maker (it's just a cheap Nokia from a few years ago).
  • This could be only me and my machine (most likely is, I really haven't put any effort into this at all) but I have to admit I don't use Youtube since they (or I) managed to break both Flash and HTML5 in Firefox (it stutters, although I haven't tested it recently, other video sites work fine or at least I haven't noticed anything) so if there really is something there I have to watch I'll just download it (one of the FireFox plugins) and watch it locally (the transfer from Google is fast enough to max my frugal connection for the few seconds it lasts). Other LInux users will have to chime in but I suspect it works for most Linux-using people and/or there's an easy fix, it used to work for me for years and I just haven't bothered (and nearly all the good stuff started being removed from YouTube anyway, the stuff I used to watch isn't there any more, I get it elsewhere).
  • I find it a tad hard to believe LibreOffice-created .doc files aren't good enough for college (aka high-school) or that .doc files are a requirement for college (aka university). Yeah they're called something else than .doc now aren't they? Still... MS formats are an important priority for LibreOffice, last I heard they had better backwards compability with Office versions than Office itself has. Or for that matter that .rtf or anything else doesn't work either. Even so Microsoft is moving towards Office as a service on the web aren't they? (Just as Adobe did with their suite including Photoshop, I had forgotten that when I wrote the last comment, or maybe that failed? I don't know). Since I don't use it (MS office, Adobe) I can't claim that it works on Linux but either way once again it's not something GNU/Linux can be blamed for.
From memory when I still used Windows I had to do a lot of stuff to figure things out or tweak or fix broken stuff (and defragmentation and reinstallations and blue screens lol!) if it was possible, run updates both from Microsoft and others, not to mention the constant fight to stay reasonably secure (i.e. not NSA stuff, back then one really though they had better things to do). I've done far less of that kind of stuff on Linux, a lot of it simply isn't necessary or even there because it doesn't apply and updates & “normal” security is fast and simple.

TL;DR Using a computer will always involve some work.

Anyway whatever works for them/you is fine by me, thanks for getting specific :)

Ballmer (Score: 2, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-09-24 13:43 (#2SW7)

perhaps should have been yelling "R&D! R&D! R&D! R&D!"

What is the deal with huge companies having great lab projects that just never get "monetized" until the idea is picked up by someone else?

From Xerox PARC to Bell Labs to MS... They turned their tabletop "Surface" research into overpriced underwhelming touchscreen laptops, and their interesting "Courier" pad never saw the light of day. Now others are building touch tabletops and whiteboards, and of course iOS and Android own mobile touch computing. Some of their software projects (I recall a photo stitching effort) also reside in obscurity.

So of course now they start dumping one of the few areas of the company that really is an engine of innovation (contrary to all massive lip service applied to that "i" word by them and everyone else). Sigh.

Re: Ballmer (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-24 15:21 (#2SW9)

AC, you should really log in because that was a good comment. I had forgotten about Courier, but now I remember how disappointed I was when they canned it. Chasing quarterly numbers makes a lot of these good, early-stage projects die on the vine.

Re: Ballmer (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-09-24 16:33 (#2SWA)

Thank you very much. I still don't have an account here although I frequently comment. I'm pretty sure you can upvote ACs if you wish.

I'm a little surprised one of the Android manufacturers, or even accessory providers, hasn't come up with a Courier workalike. All you'd really need is an accessory screen and a video extender kludge/applet. (Some case manufacturers are producing really nice stuff.) Maybe 200 bucks should do it, retail. Tricky part of course is video bandwidth. As with most things, the rigidly uniform Apple product line means it would be the first practical target for such a thing. I've no idea about extending iOS video though...

Re: Ballmer (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-24 17:17 (#2SWB)

A product doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to offer better value. A dual-screen Courier style tablet could work even if it's not as slick as the original Microsoft design. Just give me one surface mainly for handwriting and the other mainly for viewing documents/video/apps. No need to worry about lefties, as they can just rotate it 180 degrees.

Re: Ballmer (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-09-24 18:42 (#2SWC)

Put a hinge between two Galaxy Notes and you're pretty much there, really. Software design part is almost trivial, notwithstanding handwriting recognition.