Microsoft loses tech industry veteran

Sturtevant led team of 40 researchers

By Hiawatha Bray
Globe Staff / October 9, 2009

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Two years after being hired by Microsoft Corp. to head a laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts tech industry veteran Reed Sturtevant has left the company, as Microsoft restructures its research operations.

Sturtevant, 52, has held executive posts at nearly a dozen tech companies. At the incubator firm Idealab Inc., he oversaw the development of several new companies, including Picasa, a maker of photo editing software that was acquired by Google Inc. Immediately before joining Microsoft, he had served as chief technology officer at Eons Inc., a Boston-based social networking start-up that targeted baby boomers.

Microsoft hired Sturtevant in 2007 to head its new Startup Lab in Cambridge. He led a team of about 40 researchers working to develop new concepts in Internet search and social networking that might be built into profitable businesses.

The Cambridge team will remain intact, but under new management. Microsoft is combining the Startup Lab with two other research groups based at company headquarters in Redmond, Wash. The new organization, called Future Social Experiences Labs, or FUSE Labs, will be based in Redmond and headed by Lili Cheng, who previously oversaw Microsoft’s Creative Systems Group in Redmond.

Cheng said FUSE Labs would focus on developing advanced social networking products for businesses and consumers. “Our goal really is to just take social computing everywhere,’’ she said.

Cheng is a veteran of Apple Inc., where she worked on the company’s QuickTime multimedia software. She played a key role in the development of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system and also ran its social computing group. She will report directly to Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who worked with Sturtevant in the mid-1990s at Lotus Development Corp. in Cambridge.

In a memo to research staffers, Ozzie praised Sturtevant, “especially for his early role in helping to bootstrap our Microsoft development center in New England,’’ but added, “at this time Reed has decided to pursue interests outside Microsoft.’’

Sturtevant declined to provide any details about the reason for his departure. “The last two years really were fun, challenging, and exciting, and I’m proud of being part of helping Microsoft get a foothold in the New England tech ecosystem - and that’s genuine and from the heart, not at all a corporate line,’’ he said.

Asked about his future plans, Sturtevant said that he has a few ideas. “I don’t know if there’s a venture-sized business in them,’’ he said, “but they could be fun ways to recharge my batteries.’’

Scott Kirsner contributed to this article. Hiawatha Bray can be reached at