It appears that everyone is the world of search is opening new labs. Google has been announcing new research labs here and there for the past several months; Yahoo! earlier this week announced research labs in Spain and Chile. And last night Microsoft announced that it was creating a new research group "Live Labs":
MSN and Microsoft Research are creating a dedicated applied research division named Live Labs. Live Labs will be staffed by top researchers that will leverage the capabilities of MSN and Microsoft Research to work through prototyping new products and services. Microsoft will invite technologists and scientists to join the dedicated group. Live Labs will make it a priority to work in collaboration with academic researchers, industrial labs, government research labs and others and by offering opportunities for grants and fellowships to promote continued innovation in the industry.
This doesn't have to do with local per se, but this Live Labs "beta" site has been set up to document or reflect the progress of various Windows Live initiatives. Each separate initiative has an associated blog (e.g., Windows Live Local blog).
There's also something of a "culture shift" being undertaken in this effort. From the Live Labs "manifesto" by Gary William Flake, who's in charge of the new effort:
Inline with our vision, Live Labs' near-term charter is to bootstrap a virtuous cycle in three parts: (1) empower Microsoft employees to more rapidly create great Internet technologies; (2) sponsor higher bandwidth exchanges of ideas and innovations between our internal partners, academia, and the Internet community; and (3) foster a community of people and projects which will inspire others to join us in this mission.
Ostensibly, the charter of Live Labs suggests a dilemma: How can we simultaneously be small and agile but also influential enough to have a meaningful impact? Indeed, this is a dilemma that all organizations face as they grow and mature. Our answer is embarrassingly simple: We are a perpetual startup within Microsoft . . .
There are a lot of elements that go into success (or failure) for a company and one of the underappreciated factors, in my view, is culture. And there's an implied recognition in the manifesto that there needs to be some change within Microsoft for the company to more effectively compete online.
Here's more from Search Engine Watch.