Microsoft Research Spawns Another Startup

ZenZui's Zooming user interface was initially developed by Microsoft Research before being spun off into a stand-alone firm.

Yet another technology first developed at Microsoft Research is forming the basis for a new, independent company.

Microsoft will announce March 27 the launch of ZenZui, a company whose Zooming user interface was initially developed by Microsoft Research before being spun off into a stand-alone firm with the help of the Redmond software giants IP Ventures program.

Eric Hertz, a 22-year veteran of the global wireless industry, has been appointed CEO of ZenZui, while Tom Huseby, the managing partner of SeaPoint Ventures, is chairman of the board.

ZenZui has also closed a Series-A financing round of $12 million from Oak Investment Partners and Hunt Ventures.

ZenZuis core technology brings advanced information visualization techniques out of the research lab onto mobile phones and into the hands of mobile operators, marketers and consumers, Hertz said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about how, in 2006, Microsoft unveiled new social networking technology and a startup called Wallop to distribute it.

The high-frame rate Zooming User Interface employs up to 36 individual "tiles" that are selected and customized by the user to reflect their interests and lifestyle with relevant content, interactive communications and fresh data, he said.

"These tiles transform the handset and give users the power to acquire information, conduct transactions and share experiences quickly and easily," Hertz said.

"The modular tile interface lets users sync, surf and share digital content quickly, easily, and in a distinctly new way, from the connected communities of social networks and the immediacy of pop culture, to the have-to-know sports and weather info," he said.

There are a number of companies who are trying out the new technology, including Kayak, OTOlabs, Razorfish and COO Christopher Rothey said the company is excited about the combination of ZenZui technology and its nationwide real-time traffic services to provide another mobile delivery channel for its content.

/zimages/1/28571.gifMicrosoft Research demonstrated some of the technologies of the future in 2006. Click here to read more.

"Commuters demand the immediacy of on-the-go traffic content personalized for the roads they drive every day. This hyper-localized content platform allows us to engage our users multiple times per day, and the rich visual capabilities offered by ZenZui enhances the dynamic interaction of users with the traffic news crucial to their daily lives," he said.

Chris Heitmann, the executive vice president for OTOlabs, says the company "develops and deploys products that put clients brands—like Fox Family—where todays audience lives. ZenZui provides a powerful and unique platform to accomplish that in the mobile space."

Razorfish has brought three of its clients to the alpha phase with the ZenZui technology. Bruce Woolsey, the vice president of Advanced Media Solutions, is one of those customers.

ZenZuis platform is "perhaps the first mobile interface to truly leverage unique aspects of mobile devices, and its all wrapped up in a gorgeous interface thats completely intuitive to use. This kind of solution has been sorely missing from the mobile marketing world. We look forward to continue experimenting with the technology and developing smart, effective ways for our clients to leverage it," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about why Microsoft believes IP licensing is inevitable between proprietary and open-source software.

From Microsofts perspective, ZenZui demonstrates how the company can successfully turn its intellectual property into tangible business opportunities. Its IP Ventures program was launched in May 2005 to speed up the commercialization of new innovations that resulted from its research and development efforts.

"Our IP Ventures program opens the door for entrepreneurs to have access to the work of world-class research teams. Ultimately, this access allows them to rapidly bring new products to market based on those technologies," said Danl Lewin, Microsofts corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.