Yet the quirky city known for its political edge and world-renowned university is suddenly attracting top technology leaders to within its borders.
The main draw seems to be the University of California, Berkeley, the home of a number of Nobel Prize laureates and software research labs.
In the span of two months, top Internet companies have all opened research facilities in conjunction with the university. The latest is RAD Lab, which is funded by Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. RAD stands for Reliable Adaptive Distributed Systems. Its formation will be announced on Thursday.
A lab spokesperson said everything the lab develops will be open source, meaning itll be "free and open to the public."
Microsoft, Google and Sun each vowed to contribute $500,000 a year for five years, for a total of about $7.5 million. A university spokesperson likened the arrangement to "a grant" from the companies.
In October, Yahoo Inc. opened a research facility nearby to collaborate with professors, graduate students and undergrads from UC Berkeley.
In other relationships between private businesses and universities, theres been great tension from sometimes overly strict intellectual property rules that dont allow public disclosure of the work a graduate student is doing. But peer review of works in progress is a necessary part of getting a higher degree.
From a regional standpoint, the endeavor shows that the borders of Silicon Valley have crept a little further north from San Jose, which is about 50 miles away.
Berkeley and its very prestigious university have somehow managed to avoid being engulfed by the "Valley," which uses just such collaborations in a hunt for any competitive edge.
But there arent many high-tech firms, or at least no really big names, with offices or research facilities in Berkeley.
A Berkeley city official, attending an open house for the Yahoo research facility, said the city hopes more high-tech companies will come.