Microsoft shares technology with two more startups

Microsoft announced that two new European startups that will use technology developed by its researchers.

Microsoft offered technologies that it developed to two more European companies, as part of its push to help accelerate innovation among startup companies, the software giant said on Monday.

The agreements are part of Microsoft's IP (intellectual property) Ventures program, an initiative started last year to transfer technologies developed in Microsoft research labs to startup companies.

Microsoft gave U.K. company Skinkers Ltd. the IP rights to P-to-P (peer-to-peer) technology that it has developed in exchange for a 10 percent equity stake in the company, said Rob Noble, Skinkers' chief operating officer.

Skinkers currently offers a product that allows companies including the Wall Street Journal and Virgin Atlantic Airways to push alerts out to customers. The Wall Street Journal uses it to allow customers to sign up to be alerted when specified types of breaking news happens. Clicking on the alert, which pops up on a user's computer screen, opens up the full story.

Skinkers hopes to integrate the Microsoft P-to-P technology into its product so that alerts can be sent from customer-to-customer rather than only directly from a central source. For example, if one Wall Street Journal customer receives an alert and the alert is delayed reaching another nearby customer due to Internet congestion, the first recipient will automatically send the alert to the second customer. The technology will work without either customer being aware of it, Noble said.

Skinkers researchers will work with Microsoft developers at the company's Cambridge, England, research facility to further develop the technology. Skinkers will ultimately market the product and Microsoft may integrate the technology into some of its offerings too.

Microsoft's taking a stake in Skinkers shows that Microsoft IP Ventures believes in the technology's value and isn't just purging unusable products. "Their whole raison d'etre is to accelerate the growth of young and innovative companies," Noble said. "Microsoft is taking an interest in the broader world of software development."

As part of the deal, Andrew Herbert, the managing director of the Microsoft Research Cambridge lab, will sit on Skinkers' board as an observer.

The second European collaboration that Microsoft announced is with Vimio, an Irish company that sells a content distribution product to mobile operators. Vimio is licensing bandwidth optimization software from Microsoft. The software, which will reside on mobile phones, is designed to improve the user experience by optimizing the sometimes low bandwidth available over wireless networks.

Microsoft isn't taking a stake in Vimio, said Padraic Marren, vice president of business development for Vimio.

Vimio is the second Irish company to collaborate with Microsoft through the IP Ventures program. In January, SoftEdge Systems said it would use image manipulation technology created by Microsoft and in return Microsoft will receive a percentage of product sales. Both Irish companies were introduced to Microsoft through Enterprise Ireland, the government agency designed to help Irish companies growth into international concerns.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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