[AI] A ‘desi’ edge to expected Microsoft-Yahoo ‘sangam’

Shadab Husain shadabhsn at gmail.com
Sat Feb 2 22:14:37 EST 2008

Anand Parthasarathy

Both players have strong Research and Development teams in India

— Photos: Anand Parthasarathy and Microsoft

TOWARD MERGER?: Yahoo co-founder David Filo talks to the media in
Bangalore during his last visit in 2007 and (right) researchers at the
Microsoft India
Development Centre in Hyderabad.

Bangalore: When news broke on Friday of Microsoft's Godfather-like
"offer you can't refuse" to the shareholders of Internet portal leader
Yahoo, there was
more than average interest in India's own Silicon City, which is home
to large research and development teams for both U.S.-based technology

Microsoft has the larger presence in India — some 5,000-strong — and
the software sultan has two key R&D centres. The one in Bangalore is
home to Microsoft
Research, a hardcore forward-looking research team, led by P. Anandan,
which has strong links with academia. It also houses a separate team
that creates
and supports most of the Indian language initiatives of MSN —
Microsoft Network — the browser and search arm.

However, the larger team of engineers is to be found in Hyderabad,
where the Microsoft India Development Centre (MIDC) at Gachibowli, is
the company's biggest
product development group outside the United States. Headed by Srini
Koppulu, one of Microsoft's longest serving development executives,
the MIDC has been
key to the company moving many of its flagship Windows and Office
applications to the mobile phone.

Yahoo has just over 1,000 India-based engineers — and since 2007,
Stanford University scientist Prabhakar Raghavan, a recognised expert
on Web search technology,
and global head of Yahoo Research, has been guiding the efforts here.
Interestingly, India has bucked the trend and made Yahoo the most
popular e-mail
tool in the country.

The research group has created a number of local search and Indian
language tools even while helping to craft the recent "OneSearch"
mobile search tool,
launched worldwide. "We just had to tap the great talent here," Yahoo
co-founder David Filo told The Hindu on his last visit to Bangalore in

"This mega bid is of course an acknowledgement of Microsoft's failure
to monetise its online presence, and of the unshakable dominance of
Google," comments
Prasanto K. Roy, doyen of Indian technology editors and
Editor-in-Chief, CyberMedia Group Publications, in a communication to
The Hindu. He adds: "It is
ironic that Microsoft of all companies is talking about the evils of
monopoly and one-player dominance, when it says that together with
Yahoo, it can offer
a credible alternative. The bid is a great thing for Yahoo, for even
if it does not take the offer; but chances are that it would, for it
will not easily
get a better offer."

If the deal goes through, there will inevitably be some overlaps in
the India-end of development activity, but based as it is on
much-wanted skills, one
need not expect that many engineers will be 'let go.'

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