Microsoft unveils an AI-powered search experience across Windows, Office and Bing

“Getting pages of results with hyperlinks to other information is simply not enough”

Microsoft has unveiled ambitious plans to unify its search platform between Bing and across its family of apps, dubbed "Microsoft Search."

"Getting pages of results with hyperlinks to other information is simply not enough," wrote Jeff Teper, Microsoft's corporate vice president for OneDrive, SharePoint and Office in a blog post. "Faced with ever decreasing attention spans, and an explosion of data, we recognise that the challenge is to find and deliver answers to your questions, suggest insights, and enable you to take action on your tasks.

"This makes search a powerful capability that stretches across your work to make you more productive and take advantage of the collective knowledge from your organisation."

That means a unified search experience across platforms, allowing search within Windows and its apps to quickly find relevant data, whether it's files, contacts or information.

Over the next few months, the in-app search box will appear in a unified position across Microsoft's family of apps, from Outlook to Teams. Personalised results will begin to generate as soon as you click or tap on the search field, with frequent contacts and recently worked on projects appearing first.

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Not only will you be able to search for functions of the specific app (e.g: typing "acc" in Word will suggest "accept revision" or "accessibility checker") but assets related to other apps (e.g: PowerPoint presentations coming up within Word). If you're signed in, this functionality will extend to Bing, and Microsoft says you'll "get the same experience" wherever you search.

First to get the Microsoft Search functionality are the Outlook and SharePoint mobile apps, along with Office.com and Bing.com. Business users can see all this in action right now and, in the first half of 2019, Microsoft Search will extend to Office and the Windows Search bar.

This is just the beginning for Microsoft Search, and Teper imagines the hunt for data becoming more useful as the AI gets better at semantic understanding. "A question such as Can my brother work for me at my company?' means that not only syntactic parsing of the question is necessary but semantic understanding," he writes.

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