Microsoft Search: Still Playing an Old Eight Track Cassette?

November 20, 2019

How many times has DarkCyber heard about Microsoft’s improved search? Once, twice? Nope, dozens upon dozens. Whether it was the yip yap about Fast Search & Transfer, Colloquis and its natural language processing, Powerset and its semantic search system, Semantic Machines for natural voice functions, or the home brew solutions from hither and yon in the Microsoft research and development empire. There’s Outlook search and Bing search and probably a version of LinkedIn’s open source search kicking around too.

But that’s irrelevant in today’s “who cares about the past?” datasphere. DarkCyber noted “Here’s How Microsoft Is Looking to Make Search Smarter and More Natural.” What is smart search? An abrogation of user intentions? What is more natural? Boolean logic, field codes, date and time metadata, and similar artifacts of a long lost era seem okay for the DarkCyber team.

The write up explains in its own surrealistic way:

Microsoft’s ultimate goal with Microsoft Search is to provide answers not just to simple queries, but also more personalized, complex ones, such as “Can I bring my pet to work?”. The Microsoft Graph API, semantic knowledge understanding from Bing, machine-reading comprehension and the Office 365 storage and services substrate all are playing a role in bringing this kind of search to Microsoft’s apps.

Yeah, okay. But enterprise SharePoint users still complain that current content cannot be located. The current tools are blind to versions of content residing on departmental servers or parked in a cloud account owned by the legal department. And what about the prices just quoted by an enterprise sales professional? Sorry. You are out of luck, but Microsoft is… trying.

Now grab this peek into the future of Microsoft search:

Turing in Bing already has helped Microsoft to understand semantics via searching by concept instead of keyword. Natural-language processing also has helped with understanding query intent, she noted. Semantic understanding means users don’t have to expect exact word matches. (When searching for Coke, matches with “canned soda,” also could be part of the set of results generated, for example.) The Turing researchers are employing machine reading, as well, to help with contextual search/results.

The chaotic and often misfiring Microsoft search technologies do one thing well: Generate revenue for the legions of certified Microsoft partners.

Users? Yeah, Microsoft may help you too. In the meantime, the lawyers will manage their own contract drafts and eDiscovery materials. The engineers will stick with the tools baked into AutoCAD type systems? The marketers will do what marketers in many companies do? Stuff data on USBs, into the Google cloud, or copy the files to a shared folder on a former employee’s desktop. Yes, it happens.

Microsoft and search. Getting better. Here’s a snippet about Powerset (CNET, 2008)

Much of what Powerset has enabled with its technology is a superior user experience for searching. Powerset’s Wikipedia search, which surfaces concepts, meanings, and relationships (like subject, verbs, and objects in a language), is the very small tip of the iceberg.

Time for a new eight track tape?

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2019


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