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End of an era: Microsoft shuts down research lab, Trustworthy Computing group

Satya Nadella continues to shake things up and surprise at the same time.

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Credit: Microsoft

The shakeups continue at Microsoft, with its Silicon Valley research office being shut down and the Trustworthy Computing group disbanded and its work sent to other groups.

The Silicon Valley research group, in Mountain View, was part of a bigger overall campus that includes Microsoft's Mac development team, Xbox developers, Skype and several other groups. All told, Microsoft said there are about 50 research employees in that office that will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company.

I visited that office more than once to cover events for another publication. It's a really nice campus. At my last visit for TechFair in 2010, I saw things like real-time language translation, sharing data directly between smartphones, and advanced filtering for Bing.

It's hardly a sign of anything other than Nadella cleaning house and consolidating. Microsoft still has research labs in Beijing, Cairo, Cambridge, England, India, Israel, New England, and of course Redmond.

Not everyone is being reassigned. Microsoft has also killed off its Robotics research group and those folks appear to have been let go. The robotics team leader Ashley Feniello discussed his dismissal.

Sadly, the Microsoft robotics team has been shut down. My card key stops working tomorrow afternoon... :-/

This isn't too surprising. Nadella is saddled with a hardware business he really didn't want (Nokia) and a game console many analysts have said he should spin off or sell (Xbox). Robotics is an advanced science, and considering the lead Japan has in this field, it's not surprising that Microsoft made the decision to get out.

A more interesting development is the alleged disbanding of the Trustworthy Computing (TwC) group. It hasn't been announced, but GeekWire says it's a done deal. When it was launched in 2002, Bill Gates said in a memo, "We must lead the industry to a whole new level of Trustworthiness in computing."

TwC's mission was to improve Microsoft software quality and trustworthiness by improving availability and security models for Microsoft apps and developers using its tools and protecting data privacy.

Twelve years later, the world has changed and TwC's mission apparently doesn't apply anymore. The duties of the TwC group will reportedly be taken over either by the company's Cloud & Enterprise Division or its Legal & Corporate Affairs group. The goal is to make TwC policies more a part of Microsoft products rather than making it a separate group.

With the cuts, consolidations, and shuffling of assets, it's clear Nadella is cleaning up the mess and slowly restructuring the company. He may not be done, either, and might very well undo much of the massive reorg Microsoft did right before he became CEO.

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