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Microsoft Invites Orgs To 'Project Cortex' Preview, With Some Catches

Organizations wanting to participate in a private preview of Project Cortex, Microsoft's emerging "knowledge network" for Microsoft 365 users, can now check their qualifications against Microsoft's rather strict participation criteria.

The private preview requires using Microsoft 365 services and uploading content, among other details, including following a nondisclosure agreement. It's only available in English. Organizations wanting to participate need to submit a "Project Cortex Preview Program Application by January 8, 2020 (11:59 PT)," the announcement indicated. 

In a follow-up step, Microsoft is planning to contact a limited number of applicants by "late January 31, 2020" regarding acceptance into the preview. The private preview is expected to last "through June 30, 2020."

One perk for participants is that they "will be given all the licensing they need to be successful as part of the program at no additional charge."

The "general availability" commercial release of Project Cortex is planned for the first half of 2020. It'll be packaged at that time as a "Premium" Microsoft 365 service offering. Pricing wasn't described.

Project Cortex, which got unveiled during the November Microsoft Ignite event, uses artificial intelligence for information processing, the Microsoft Graph for searching Office 365 data and SharePoint Online for pulling content together. The aim is to create an organizational knowledge resource for Microsoft 365 users. Project Cortex users will get things like highlighted links in documents that will surface so-called "Topic Cards" automatically. These Topic Cards will pop up over text portions (such as acronyms) when a user's mouse cursor hovers over the text.

These Project Cortex links can go fairly deep, as described by Chris McNulty, senior product manager for Project Cortex and content services, in a Dec. 16 "Office Hours" presentation. For instance, the links will show people in the organization associated with a topic, as well as a list of resources. There's also a map of related topics that'll get shown, called the "Knowledge Graph." In addition, related conversations in Microsoft Teams and Yammer get shown. Users also see a "Knowledge Center" at the top of the page, and it'll be possible to integrate SharePoint Web Parts into it, McNulty indicated.

Project Cortex also has a "Content Center" page. It'll be possible to set up document models for it by creating a document library, invoking AI Builder process automation and uploading sample documents. These models can then be consumed by any applications, McNulty noted. The concept seems similar to templates used with SharePoint Online, although McNulty didn't make the point.

McNulty highlighted a few general use cases for Project Cortex during the presentation. The solution can be used for topic mining and discovery, as well as forms processing and the "smart ingestion" of data. The solution also supports content creation. He promised that Project Cortex would enable "insights and analytics," as well.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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