Whats Microsoft Growing in the Greenhouse?

The company's Information Worker unit is dabbling with search and other potential future products in its incubator.

Microsoft Corp.s Information Worker unit is looking at how to grow its Office franchise via a number of potential new products taking root in its "Greenhouse" incubator.

The Greenhouse team builds prototypes of potential applications and technologies and then seeks wider, corporate backing and financing for these initiatives. Those that arent seen as viable are dropped.

The Greenhouse isnt new. Since at least 2003, Microsoft has been investigating one or more search-related projects under its auspices.

In 2003, what was then known as the Knowledge Interchange incubation team was part of the Information Worker divisions new markets initiative. The general manager of that team was Bobby Kishore. Kishores current title is general manager of the information worker Greenhouse, Microsoft officials confirmed this week.

(Kishore previously was part of Microsofts digital distribution and software licensing team and was credited as "one of the pioneers of software based anti-piracy/product activation for Microsoft." Kishore also served as general manager of the enterprise e-commerce group.)

More recently, Microsoft executives publicly acknowledged the companys Knowledge Interchange unit and the work that it did on Microsofts desktop search product.

During a December 2004 Webcast, MSN Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdii made a brief, passing reference to Knowledge Interchange.

When asked by a Webcast participant about the extent to which the MSN team has collaborated with other internal Microsoft teams on search, Medhi responded: "The way weve built the desktop search offering today has been in collaboration with a number of groups around the company. So the Microsoft Office team and the Knowledge Interchange team have actually directly worked with us to put together this desktop search service, and that has also had review and input from the Windows team."

The Knowledge Interchange team, now known as the Greenhouse team, is continuing to work on search technology, according to sources claiming familiarity with Microsofts plans. Sources say the team is investigating ways to make search more targeted, personalized and P2P-savvy.

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