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Microsoft Means Business with Bing

Microsoft created some interesting buzz at this year's Ignite conference with the news that it is putting Bing at the center of its artificial intelligence and enterprise search efforts.

The new Bing for Business will be a key deliverable from the new AI Research Group Microsoft formed a year ago this week, led by Harry Shum, which brought together Microsoft Research with the company's Bing, Cortana, Ambient Computing and Robotics and Information Platform groups.

Bing for Business brings the Microsoft Graph to the browser, allowing employees to conduct personalized and contextual search incorporating interfaces from Azure Active Directory, Delve, Office 365 and SharePoint. Li-Chen Miller, partner group program manager for AI and Research at Microsoft, demonstrated Bing for Business in the opening keynote session at Ignite, showing how to discover her organization's conference budget.

Using machine reading and deep learning models, Bing for Business went through 5,200 IT and HR documents. "It didn't just do a keyword match. It actually understood the meaning of what I was asking, and it actually found the right answer, the pertinent information for a specific paragraph in a specific document and answered my question right there," Miller said. "The good news is Bing for Business is built on Bing and with logic matching, it could actually tell the intent of what I was trying to do."

Miller added that organizations deploying Bing can view aggregated but anonymized usage data. "You can see what employees are searching for, clicking on and what they're asking, so you can truly customize the experience," she said. It can also be used with Cortana.

The idea behind Bing for Business is it takes multiple approaches to acquiring information within an enterprise -- such as from SharePoint, a file server and global address book -- and applies all the Active Directory organizational contexts, as well as Web search queries, to render intelligent results, said Dave Forstrom, Microsoft's director of conversational AI, during an interview at Ignite.

"If you're in an enterprise that has set this up, now you can actually work that into your tenant in Office 365 and then it's set up through your Active Directory for authentication in terms of what you have access to," Forstrom said.

Quite a few customers are using it now in private beta, according to Forstram. The plan is to, at some point, deliver it as a service within Office 365.

Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft's Office Productivity Group, said in a separate interview that the Microsoft Graph brings together the search capabilities into a common interface. It also includes Microsoft's Bot Framework.

"Being able to have consistent results but contextualized in the experience that you're in when you conduct the search is just super powerful," Patton said. "We've never before been able to do that based on the relevance and the contextual pieces that the Graph gives."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/28/2017 at 10:40 AM


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