Will Microsoft’s newest board member improve R&D Deliverables?

On March 10th, Microsoft announced the addition of Maria Klawe to their Board of Directors. Klawe (pronounced Claw-vay) has been the President of Harvey Mudd College since 2006, and her addition brings the number of board members back up to 10. Klawe has been noted for her work in the areas of mathematics and computer science including functional analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science, human-computer interaction, gender issues in information technology, and interactive-multimedia for mathematics education. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates stated in the official press release “Maria has made significant research contributions to computer science and mathematics, and we are very fortunate to have her join Microsoft’s board of directors,” “In particular, I think her close connection to university students and the way they shape computing trends will bring an important perspective to the board.” Klawe has a reputation of being close to the pulse of her students at Harvey Mudd College, even living on campus. No doubt having the President of a college brings a fresh perspective to Microsoft’s board. Klawe has stated in interviews that her interest lies in internet search, healthcare, and convergence technologies. Although she has been mum on what Microsoft deems to be important for the company’s future. One thing is for sure Microsoft can use some improvement on its R& D deliverables. While Bill & Co. seem to have, done well in areas of Operating Systems, and even back office systems such as Exchange and SQL Server. It cannot be denied that Windows Mobile has lagged, Zune has barely taken off and internet search is at best mediocre (anyone remember Micro-hoo). Perhaps that is where Klawe can best be of assistance. Again, being close to the college crowd (which often are the first adopters of new technology) and having spent eight years at IBM Research, not to mention close ties to the head of Microsoft Research (Rick Rashid). Rashid was the person to reach out to Klawe about the board position;certainly makes her the right person for the job. Many times, we are too close to the situation and too proud to turn and ask someone what you would like to see. Yes, we have CTP’s, forums, and feedback, most of that gets filtered through corporate IT departments who need to see the technology perform a certain function. So it is not always the best way to go for information. If Klawe does what both Microsoft and everyone else expects and taps into the young innovative minds that are thinking about tomorrow today, it can pay off in spades for Microsoft.

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