Last fall, with Ray Ozzie’s support and sponsorship, we started FUSE Labs, with the mission to work with Microsoft product and research teams to ideate, develop and deliver new social, real-time and media-rich experiences for home and work.

It’s been about eight months now, and we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. It’s been especially exciting to see the response to some of our early projects. For example:

• Our team worked extensively on the Outlook Social Connector that our Office colleagues will ship soon as part of Office 2010.
• Bing Twitter Maps, which we worked on in conjunction with our Bing colleagues, allows individuals to see tweets within the context of a map.
• Docs for Facebook, a new service, allows Facebook users to share Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, just as they readily share photos and videos today.
 
Today’s social networks are powerful and compelling, but they’re just the beginning of a broader transformation that will likely change every aspect of the Web. One area we’ve been focused on lately is the personalization of social computing. As you increasingly tweet, post to Facebook, and capture ideas with tools like Evernote, we want to help you get the most out of your social activity by exposing the right information, at the right time, in a way that’s meaningful.

That’s the theory behind Spindex, the latest exploration within FUSE Labs that I’m announcing this afternoon at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Spindex, which we’re making available in early technical preview form, aggregates your social streams (Facebook, Twitter, Bing, etc.), making it simple for you to find what’s new, see personalized trending topics, and generally make the most of the time you spend being social on the Web.

As I said when we introduced Docs a few weeks ago, one of our FUSE Labs principles is that it’s not what you say; instead it’s what you do, what you learn and how quickly you adapt. Just as VCs bet on startups, Microsoft bets on Labs projects. That’s why Microsoft Labs play a key role in Microsoft’s overall approach to product development.

With product teams primarily focused on more pragmatic, shorter-term innovation to address customer needs, and Microsoft Research primarily focused on much longer-term efforts in pushing the boundaries of technology, labs like FUSE play a key “middle” role in incubating technologies that can become part of commercial products over time — or provide valuable IP and learning that helps inform other products.

While it’s early days for Spindex, and our learning has just begun, one thing is certain: what we discover will help inform Microsoft’s approach to how we work and play in the years to come.

While my kids have a hard time appreciating this fact, it’s still “covered wagon” days for the Web. There’s still much territory to be surveyed, and we look forward to sharing our explorations with you.

Posted by Lili Cheng
General Manager, Microsoft FUSE Labs