Microsoft is about to release a new kind of search tool that it’s been working on for years: Delve.
Delve is centeral to CEO Satya Nadella’s new vision to turn Microsoft into a “productivity and platform company.”
That means less focus on devices, more focus on what people do with the devices.
He describes a world where your phone/tablet/PC/TV knows you, understands you, and caters to your needs even before you issue a command. (We’re reminded of that scene in the movie “Her” where Samantha, the smart operating system, organizes Theodore’s email and later submits a collection of his work to a book publisher, unbeknownst to him.)
Nadella named a number of Microsoft technologies that will bring this vision to life. Here’s what he said in his memo:
As a result, people will meet and collaborate more easily and effectively. They will express ideas in new ways. They will experience the magic of ambient intelligence with Delve and Cortana. They will ask questions naturally and have them answered with insight from Power Q&A. They will conquer language barriers and change the world with Skype translator.
Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and is part of the latest version of Windows Phone.
Skype translator is a real-time translation tool for Skype users expected to be available before the end of the year. Speak and it will translate.
Power Q&A is an add-on cloud service for Office 365 customers, the version of Microsoft Office that runs in the cloud. It’s a data analysis tool. You type in a question and it searches through corporate documents stored in SharePoint and Excel and gives you an answer, maybe complete with chart. (This kind of natural language analysis is the next-generation tech for “business intelligence” software, the kind of software used to predict things like quarterly sales, etc.)
But Delve could be one of the most interesting of all. Delve, previously code-named Oslo, is Microsoft’s version of Google search. The company has been working on it for years. It doesn’t search the Web, it searches your emails, social networks, and corporate documents stored in Office 365.
Delve uses “machine learning” and artificial intelligence to show you the documents, messages, and people you don’t know you need to see. Microsoft describes it as:
Delve highlights key information of interest to you, based on what you are working on and the actions of people in your network.
It’s like Google Now or Cortana, but for your work life.
Although Microsoft has been showing Delve off since March, it will be formally announced at Microsoft’s 2014 Worldwide Partner Conference
next week in Washington, D.C., and available to Office 365 customers later this year, Microsoft says.
If Delve proves a hit with businesses users, organising people’s work lives, it will go a long way toward validating Nadella’s vision.
Here’s a glance at a Delve search page:
Here’s the full demo of Delve that Microsoft did in March. Skip to 4:05 to go straight to the demo.