While Microsoft spins the latest studio closing as a consolidation of workspace, Pioneer Studios (that was based in downtown Seattle) has been closed. Most of the employees from Pioneer have been moved to other locations, but many of them still continue to work as a team.
While many may not know much about Pioneer Studios, the studio was formed by J. Allard while he was quarterbacking things at the Entertainment and Devices division at Microsoft. The studio was unique in the fact that it featured a very special customized workspace that was designed by SkB Architects to create an environment for innovation. Pioneer is most known for the canceled Courier project and the Metro Interface, but they have worked on many other things, as well.
Microsoft has had created special groups within the company many times in the past to act as idea or concept incubation teams. These teams are normally tasked with ideas they work with toward proof of concept. While most of these are not talked about much, we have heard of FUSE Labs, The Garage, Startup Business Group, and, of course, the famous Microsoft Hardware Incubation Lab. While we can’t tell you all that these groups and teams have been responsible for, it certainly shows Microsoft’s ability to think outside the box to foster innovation.