Microsoft’s “Garage” incubating the future of online services

Have you heard about The Microsoft Garage? It’s not a place to park or fix cars. The Garage is company wide initiative, compromised of a community, events, and services to foster and support grassroots innovation inside of Microsoft. In the Garage, you’ll find over 3000 people from across Microsoft who are eager to hear your ideas, provide feedback and, quite possibly, turn those ideas into reality.The Garage also offers a collection of useful tools to put ideas into action including access to hardware, source control, testing instrumentation and even hosting for server- or cloud-based apps.


Last year, the Online Services Division (OSD) started its own garage chapter to provide community and infrastructure to accelerate  grass-roots innovation across our team. The OSD Garage community meets twice a month to kick around new ideas, learn from each other and crank out some cool prototypes.


The OSD innovations coming out the Garage are still confidential, but a good example of a recent success to be born out of The Garage is the Lync Conversation Translator. This real-time translator lets two people who speak different languages have an instant messaging conversation in their native tongues. Harry Emil, a Senior Test Lead in the Lync group, conceived the original prototype in his spare time at The Garage. With the support of other creative Microsoft minds, Harry’s idea is now part of our enterprise software and translates into to some 35 languages.The Garage also mixes serious innovation with fun by hosting “Science Fairs,” where employees put together poster-board presentations to showcase their last inventions. The judges wear white lab coats, award “Science Fair” winners with trophies and let them ignite a homemade volcano dubbed “Mount St. Awesome.” It’s… well… awesome.


Microsoft Advertising (part of OSD) held their first Science Fair in January. The goal of their science fair was to encourage innovation, facilitate feedback and concept generation between colleagues and provide an outlet to showcase ideas.  “Code speaks louder than words” was their mantra and over 30 startup projects were presented to a panel of judges compromised of the MS Advertising leadership team. The competition was fierce, the vibe was fun, and the innovation factor was high. The result of the first science fair?


Again, can’t tell you… yet.


But I can say that that when our smartest minds from across the company get together and think outside of the box, the results are extraordinary.


Want to contribute your ideas to the Garage?  Check us out here for jobs and your chance to ignite a homemade volcano.



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