My coverage of Paul’s post has prompted some very thoughtful discussion in the comments, and I wanted to point it out. An employee from Google and one from Yahoo are discussing the value and approach of R&D, with some great comments thrown in by other readers. Excerpts:
(JG@Yahoo)”Google treats research as an engineering task. And thus really only comes up with engineering solutions. They see some problem that’s slightly broken, so they engineer a slightly better solution. With MS on the other hand, they’ve allowed funding for more pie-in-the-sky, long term projects, such as those that used to happen at PARC and Bell Labs.”
(Random Googler) “I work at Google, and I see an amazing amount of research going on. The entire company is staffed with people with academic backgrounds in disciplines like computer science, computer engineering, mathematics, and so on. To imagine that we’re not doing research constantly seems bizarre to me. The question of “yes, but how much basic research” you’re doing also seems weird to me. When running your company involves solving fundamental problems in computer science and mathematics, that’s what you do as your bread and butter.”
(JG) “You mention the hordes of academics who have joined Google. I know, they’re there. But if they’re all busy launching products, who is creating the seeds for the next generation?”
Update: My bad. JG has a Yahoo mail address, but is not at Yahoo, he’s a researcher at another Valley firm.