By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are setting aside their bitter
animosity to back a new Internet research laboratory aimed at helping
entrepreneurs introduce more groundbreaking ideas to a mass audience.
Sun Microsystems Inc. also is joining the $7.5 million project at the
University of California, Berkeley. The Reliable, Adaptive and
Distributed Systems, or RAD, lab was scheduled to open Thursday and
will dole out $1.5 million annually over five years, with each company
Staffed initially by six UC Berkeley faculty members and 10 computer
science graduates, the lab plans to develop an array of Web-based
software services that will be given away to anyone who wants it.
Conceivably, the lab's services could help launch another
revolutionary company like online auctioneer eBay Inc. or even Google,
which has emerged as one of the world's most valuable companies just
seven years after its inception in a Silicon Valley garage.
"It's interesting to have Google as one of the founding investors
because one of the big questions (the RAD lab is trying to address)
is, 'How do you get the next Google out there?'" said Greg
Papadopoulos, Sun's chief technology officer.
The lab already has created something highly unusual -- a bond between
Google, the maker of the Internet's most popular search engine, and
Microsoft, the world's largest software maker.
The two are fierce rivals in search, and their behind-the-scenes
rancor has been publicly aired in a recent Washington state court
battle triggered by Google's recent raids on Microsoft's work force.
David Patterson, a UC Berkeley professor who will be the lab's
director, said he was initially was worried about the friction, but
"everybody was pretty mature about it."
Microsoft senior researcher James Larus said the collaboration on RAD
shouldn't be seen as a truce.
"We are not going into this with the idea that we are going to be
collaborating with Google or that they will be collaborating with us,"
said Larus, who will be Microsoft's primary liaison with the RAD lab.
In a statement, Google said it's excited to be involved in the lab and
looks "forward to the exciting ideas and technology that will be
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems also has had a prickly
relationship with Microsoft, although they have been getting along
better since Microsoft last year paid Sun $1.6 billion to settle
antitrust and patent infringement lawsuits.
Sun and Google are highly collegial. In October, they formed a
partnership to develop more software tools that might pose a threat to
Microsoft's dominant Office suite of word processing and spreadsheet
UC Berkeley and other universities increasingly are turning to the
private sector to help offset declines in spending by the federal
government. Earlier this year, UC Berkeley stuck a deal with Internet
powerhouse Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) to open a research
laboratory devoted to online search.
High-tech companies have a huge incentive to help make up for lost
government funding, said Larus, who got his doctorate from UC
"We realize if research isn't being done in university laboratories,"
he said, "then the pipeline of ideas and computer science graduates
coming into our companies eventually is going to dry up."
On the Net:
RAD lab: http://rads.cs.berkeley.edu
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