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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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January 15, 2008 1:34 PM

Google touts Fremont Engineering office, links to UW

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A gang of local politicos, venture capitalists, computer science profs and reporters gathered at Google's swank new Fremont engineering office this morning to check the place out. The company is eager to highlight its new digs, which opened in October and now houses close to 100 -- with plenty of room for more.

Tonight, the company is inviting would-be recruits to tour its space in the three-story Waterside Building fronting the ship canal in the Center of the Universe. The space used to be occupied by Getty Images, which has contracted its footprint in the neighborhood in addition to cutting staff. But Fremont -- and really the stretch from there to the University of Washington -- has turned into something of a high-tech strip, with Adobe, Impinj, Telecom Transport Management, the Institute for Systems Biology and the Allen Institute for Brain Science, among others.

Google's events today, along with a big billboard on the Queen Anne side of the Fremont Bridge that looks like a well-used software engineer's white board, appear to be recruiting. Google is aiming to raise its profile as a top destination for engineering talent in the region, and by all accounts, it has been successful, particularly at grabbing graduates from the UW. Brian Bershad, a UW computer science professor, joined Google in October and is director of the Fremont site.

The company's presence in the region now stands at more than 500 broken down like this: 400-plus in the Kirkland Engineering office, opened in October 2004, and is now, maybe, the second-largest Google office outside of Mountain View (New York City might be bigger, they weren't sure); 75-plus in the Fremont Engineering office; 25-plus in the Fremont sales office.

At last count, in September, Google had 15,916 employees spread across 40 engineering sites in 18 countries, and growing. On a tour today, an engineer said, "We seem to be growing at Moore's Law rate. If you look at the company, it's doubling every 18 months now."

Executives touted amenities at the Fremont office and gave a glimpse of working life for a Googler.

Of course, food is front and center. Inside, the sunlit Kayak Cafe looks out on the water. Kayaks lean against the walls and come spring, Googlers will be able to take a lunchtime paddle. Several chefs prepared something that smelled delicious, heavy with garlic. They emphasize fresh, local, organic ingredients -- and it's all free, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brier Dudley did a great write-up of the well-known food culture at Google, looking at its Kirkland office, last year.

Everything you'd expect of a top company recruiting smart people with scarce skill sets is present in Seattle's offices. There are the dogs and the doggie amenities; the game room with all the latest toys; the fancy, hand-chosen furniture; the floor-to-ceiling white boards; the composting program; the open work space; the massage chairs and massage room; the Segway.

The amenities have helped get recruits in the door, but other things about Google's culture get them to stay.

Bershad, the Seattle site director, said the University of Washington has several hundred graduates now working at Google including 35 computer science Ph.D.s. "The company and the university reflect many of the same values about creativity," he said, adding that they share an entrepreneurial spirit, as well.

He noted that a new area of research and work in Seattle will be the systems that bring together Google's applications for consumers and services for advertisers. The latter two have been done in Seattle and Kirkland, but the systems work has mainly been done in Mountain View, he said.

He described those systems as software that pulls it all together inside of Google's immense data centers -- querying large sets of data in an instant and coordinating the efforts of thousands of computer servers.

Bershad added that this kind of software systems work fits well with an area of expertise within the university's computer science department.

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