Quentin Hardy of the New York Times recently discussed Microsoft’s efforts to gain an edge in Big Data analytics. Hardy writes, “Eric Horvitz joined Microsoft Research 20 years ago with a medical degree, a Ph.D. in computer science and no plans to stay… He remained at M.S.R., as Microsoft’s advanced research arm is known, for the fast computers and the chance to work with a growing team of big brains interested in cutting-edge research. His goal was to build predictive software that could get continually smarter. In a few months, Mr. Horvitz, 54, may get his long-awaited payoff: the advanced computing technologies he has spent decades working on are being incorporated into numerous Microsoft products.”

Hardy goes on, “Next year’s version of the Excel spreadsheet program, part of the Office suite of software, will be able to comb very large amounts of data… A new version of Outlook, the e-mail program, is being tested that employs Mr. Horvitz’s machine-learning specialty to review users’ e-mail habits. It could be able to suggest whether a user wants to read each message that comes in. Elsewhere, Microsoft’s machine-learning software will crawl internal corporate computer systems much the way the company’s Bing search engine crawls the Internet looking for Web sites and the links among them. The idea is to predict which software applications are most likely to fail when seemingly unrelated programs are tweaked. If its new products work as advertised, Microsoft will find itself in a position it has not occupied for the last few years: relevant to where technology is going.”

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Image: Courtesy Microsoft Research