Microsoft's Ray Ozzie Lights a FUSE

Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie has decided that "social" is the way of Microsoft's software future, announcing the creation of Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, which will focus on the creation of social applications and services. FUSE Labs will combine three other labs, including Microsoft Startup Labs, whose managing director, Reed Sturtevant, has decided to step down.

Microsoft's chief software architect Ray Ozzie announced the creation of Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, which will concentrate on "software and services that are centered on social connectivity, real-time experiences, and rich media," according to material found on Microsoft's Web site.

In an Oct. 8 internal memo leaked to several news outlets online, Ozzie wrote that FUSE Labs will "bring more coherence and capability to those advanced development projects where they're already actively collaborating with product groups to help them succeed with 'leapfrog' efforts."

The Labs, which will incorporate around 80 employees from Microsoft Startup Labs, based in Massachusetts, along with the Creative Systems Group and Rich Media Labs. It will be headed by Lili Cheng, previously the director of the Creative Systems Group within Microsoft Research, whose new title will be general manager of FUSE Labs.

Ozzie wrote in his memo that the "three groups being combined have concrete skills and code in areas where 'social' meets sharing; where 'social' meets real-time; where 'social' meets media; where 'social' meets search; where 'social' meets the cloud plus three screens and a world of devices." The 'social,' he added, has extended beyond entertainment and productivity and teamwork to the use of the operating system itself.

Microsoft Startup Labs' managing director Reed Sturtevant decided to resign in order to "pursue other interests," according to the company. A self-described "M.I.T. dropout," Sturtevant originally worked with Ray Ozzie at Lotus Development Corp. in a variety of positions, including Director of Product Management and Design for InterNotes, according to his online resume.

Reached for quote by on Oct. 8, Sturtevant said that he had a few concepts "that didn't make sense within the context of Microsoft, and I'm gonna play with those. I don't know if there's a venture-sized business in them, but they could be fun ways to recharge my batteries."

Ray Ozzie's restructuring suggests the increasing prevalence of social platforms and applications to not only more leisure-oriented pursuits, but also enterprise and SMB (small- to medium-sized business) functionality. According to his memo, FUSE Labs will work with Microsoft Research and other divisions to more quickly capitalize on social-computing opportunities.

"The lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company's extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity," Ozzie wrote.