The software giant today became an Internet2 (I2) business partner and said it will contribute financially and intellectually to the project, working with researchers at more than 150 universities to develop advanced Internet technologies and applications.
Microsoft, now one of 15 I2 business partners, said in a statement that it will make contributions exceeding $1 million in goods and services to universities involved in the research project.
The project, which was first announced in October 1996 and played a key part in the Clinton administration's $100 million Internet initiative, has been working with other top industry players to support newer and faster Net capabilities in higher-education facilities.
Microsoft said its research division is establishing high-speed connections to Abilene and other I2 research institutions.
As previously reported, the I2 and Abilene projects went live in February. The university project ran on the $500 million Abilene fiber-optic backbone, which was developed by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) with partners Qwest Communications, Nortel Networks, and Cisco Systems. The Abilene I2 backbone network was said to be 85,000 times faster than a standard dial-up modem.
Microsoft has the potential to deliver real-time and high-quality video, television, telephony, and multimedia applications to the project, Ron Johnson, vice president of communications at the University of Washington, said in a statement.
Early last year, IBM announced it would become an I2 business partner by providing hardware and software to seven universities. 3Com also joined, donating an initial $1 million in networking technologies to universities.
"The Internet as we know it today is constantly pushed to its limits," Microsoft Research vice president Rich Rashid said in a statement. "Even though now we can participate in videoconferences or exchange audio and video clips with one another, the quality of the experience is not optimal or compelling enough to make it commonplace."
He added that by working with other I2 partners and researchers, Microsoft is "confident" that they can overcome current technical challenges to achieve this goal.