Build 2019: Microsoft’s intelligent, context-aware search boxes are coming to apps and services

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Search appears to be as integral to Redmond’s productivity vision

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7 May 2019 | 0

Last September, Microsoft began rolling out a more intelligent Microsoft Search that understands both the context of a query as well as what is being asked. At Microsoft Build, Microsoft will announce that the Microsoft Search box will roll out across all Microsoft apps and services, and as a worldwide feature by the end of May.

Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president in charge of Office, last year explained Microsoft Search as an answer to the constant roll-out of new features, each with its own icon or menu item that can clutter an app or web page. Microsoft Search does not do this. Instead, it simply adds more power, behind the scenes, to the search bar you are already familiar with. Windows Search already appears on Bing.com and Office.com.

What is sometimes confusing about Microsoft Search is that it is context-aware. As a home user, you will receive different results from Bing, for example, than you would if you worked at a particular company. At the office, and logged into the Microsoft Graph, Bing will surface work-specific answers to your queries. So while it is fair to say that Bing is in fact a Microsoft search engine, what it talks to will vary depending on your particular environment.

Microsoft promises that Windows Search will become smarter as it becomes more prevalent. Today, Microsoft touts Windows Search as a “zero query” search: click into the search box, and it immediately surfaces a list of the apps, people, and documents you have recently or frequently engage with. In the future, Microsoft’s promising features like key phrase suggestion, which tries to understand what you mean, as well as a query history of past searches and suggestions which helps inform which documents and suggestions it surfaces. Search will pull data sources from the Microsoft Graph, which indexes email, calendar, Teams chats, documents, and more.

It all sounds somewhat similar to Delve, a (presumably) little-used Microsoft Office 365 app that served as a dedicated interface for many of the same work-related queries. Now Delve appears to be largely transformed into Windows Search.

According to Microsoft, Search will be pulled into all Microsoft apps and services, and rolled out worldwide by the end of May. Microsoft also plans to open up search to third-party connectors, too, though those will only roll out in limited private preview, and later this year.

IDG News Service

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