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Bing Joins Microsoft's AI Efforts in Bing for Business

Microsoft this week unveiled Bing for Business, a new deliverable that will put Bing at the center of Microsoft's enterprise search and artificial intelligence efforts.

Bing for Business is a product of Microsoft's 1-year-old AI research group. Led by Executive Vice President Harry Shum, the group comprises the Microsoft Research organization and the company's Bing, Cortana, Ambient Computing and Robotics, and Information Platform units.

Bing for Business brings the Microsoft Graph to the browser, allowing employees to perform personalized and contextual searches that incorporate 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 during the opening keynote session at this week's Ignite conference, showing how to discover an organization's conference budget.

Using machine reading and deep learning models, Bing for Business went through 5,200 IT and HR documents during the demo. "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. The service can also be used with Cortana.

According to Dave Forstrom, Microsoft's director of conversational AI, Bing for Business 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.

"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 in an interview at Ignite.

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

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."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.