Microsoft is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the opening of its Silicon Valley campus, in the heart of the technology industry. Okay, so the campus first opened on October 4, 1999, but what’s important is that it’s become the company’s second-largest facility in the U.S., driven largely by the huge pool of technical talent located in the area.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) had various facilities around the San Francisco Bay Area prior to that but in 1999, the company decided to put most of them in one contiguous campus in the Mountain View area, including both product developers as well as researchers.
Now called the Silicon Valley Campus, or SVC in typical Microsoft style, the campus has made Microsoft at least a minor fixture in the Valley over the past decade.
These days, SVC houses some 1,300 Microsoft employees, although there are another 700 or so in other parts of the Bay Area, including a sales office in downtown San Francisco. Microsoft also acquired offices nearby but not on the SVC property when it bought TellMe and Danger in recent years.
At this point, Microsoft employment throughout California currently comes up just short of 3,000, according to a company statement.
In fact, there are so many employees off campus these days that Microsoft has begun referring to the location as Microsoft Silicon Valley, or MSV.
“Human resources are Microsoft’s key asset, and Silicon Valley has always been a hub for IQ and IP [intellectual property]. It’s an important place to us, and it always has been,” Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development and SVC leader, said in a statement.
Not the least of those employees are some 65 computer scientists who work for Microsoft Research (MSR), which sometimes collaborate with product groups as well as with researchers at major educational institutions nearby, including Stanford University.
Among the MSR research projects currently under the MSV aegis are Dryad, an experiment in writing and managing distributed applications, and the Berkeley Emulation Engine version 3 (BEE3), so-named because it’s a project with the University of California at Berkeley.
BEE3 aims to let researchers perform large-scale tests of software running on novel computer architectures, according to statements by Roy Levin, the Silicon Valley lab’s managing director.
Probably the biggest project to come from MSR in recent years is Surface, the multitouch table that responds to fingers drawn across the table surface like a controller or stylus. It’s used in many AT&T Wireless stores as a demo machine.
As for other contributions that MSR Silicon Valley researchers have made to products, they worked “extensively” on the core engine for Microsoft’s Bing search engine and also developed algorithms for improving the engine’s relevance rankings.
In addition, the Silicon Valley lab also developed “Active Answers,” which the company describes as “a feature that lets users interact with results to instantly get information such as flight statuses or stock quotes.”
Bing’s developers have used Dryad — a system that harnesses computer clusters to analyze very large data sets to improve the quality of search results.