Microsoft has unveiled an initiative to provide start-up companies with access to some of the software company's intellectual property.
The Microsoft Intellectual Property Ventures programme currently offers licences for 20 technologies in areas such as gaming, databases and security.
The programme aims to apply some of Microsoft's research to areas where the company does not normally do business, and make money from its intellectual property portfolio.
"We are providing an opportunity to take [our] technology in a different direction," David Kaefer, a Microsoft director of business development, told vnunet.com.
Microsoft is advertising the available technologies on its IP Ventures website, and will pitch them to venture capital investors.
The company already has an agreement with several leading venture capital firms in the US, as well as London-based 3i. Microsoft expects to add partnerships with Apex in London and an investor in France in the coming weeks.
The tie-ups will enable Microsoft to better identify opportunities for its technologies, according to Kaefer.
"Sometimes we spot these [opportunities], and frankly a lot of times we don't. One of the best things that venture capitalists and entrepreneurs can do is [to] spot opportunities where other people cannot."
Microsoft already has programmes in place to license its intellectual property to medium and large sized companies, but is a newcomer to the start-up space.
To accommodate such small partners, Microsoft accepts both cash and equity as payment.
The company is also touting the programme as a way to share knowledge within the software industry other than using the open source model.
"Intellectual property is a currency," said Kaefer. "We do not think that giving it away is using the right approach, especially if you have very innovative technologies that consumers value."
Kaefer insisted that the initiative is not targeted against open source, nor does it aim to further advance Windows as a platform.
Microsoft's technology can turn up on Linux, as a web service or on the Symbian operating system for mobile phones. "It is platform agnostic," he said.
As an example of how the programme works, Kaefer pointed to a small company called Inrix. Microsoft has sold a licence for a machine-learning technology to the start-up that specialises in the prediction of traffic patterns. Inrix will use the technology to improve traffic information services.
Microsoft applied the same machine-learning technology in its spam filtering products to better identify junk email.
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