Microsoft Predicts the Future of Search

Microsoft is putting search at the forefront of its future plans, and is demonstrating its increasing prowess in that field at the company’s annual TechFest this week.

The software giant unveiled nearly 100 new innovations at its Redmond campus, including several key research projects such as the highly anticipated Mix, a new search-based authoring program.

New Search Tools

Although a big gulf still exists between the software giant and search kingpin Google, Microsoft believes it will eventually narrow that gap by improving the quality of its search results, as well as by changing the way computer users think of the search process.

Mix technology is designed to pull data from numerous sources — including Web sites, the computer’s hard drive and databases — and integrate all of the results into one document. The service will allow Web surfers to organize search results and easily share them.

“Think of Mix as a kind of high-tech, living scrapbook,” Rick Rashid, Microsoft Research senior vice president, said. “You can create a page that has digital pictures of your family, e-mails you exchange with family members and links to places you love to visit together.”

Although TechFest — an annual event open to reporters, Microsoft employees and the company’s business partners — demonstrates dozens of new technologies, most of them never make it to product development.

However, Mix will be released in six to nine months, according to Microsoft.

Business Search

With Mix, Microsoft is also building in important business values, as knowledge workers often need to share up-to-date information within a group. Mix would allow them to build documents tailored to a particular project, including relevant search results, links to internal Web sites, and even newsgroup discussions, according to Microsoft.

Business users would be able to share the documents, and members of the group could continue to add content to it, automatically updating the project folder for the entire group.

Though Microsoft apparently is dedicating substantial resources to compete with Google, “I’m not sure it is a technology problem they need to overcome,” said Rob Enderle, a principal analyst with the Enderle Group.

“Google is entrenched in the space, and it’s hard to remove an entrenched vendor,” he told TechNewsWorld.

More From Microsoft

Another tool demonstrated at the show, called “Web Assistant,” is designed to improve the relevance of search results and help eliminate the ambiguities that often occur with overlapping topics or names.

The results can be refined based on records of earlier searches by other users and on the ways those users modified search terms when they did not get the results they were seeking, according to Microsoft.

Web Assistant is a prototype of a browser that aims to change the way users interact with information, according to Microsoft.

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