When people ask the question “what is the cloud?” the usual response centers around the fact that it is an “outside thing” where data is stored. But one of the concepts that can be easily overlooked, yet which ties into the soft, amorphous imagery of clouds in general, is how data is accessed once stored there. Although the computers that store cloud data do an excellent job of saving material, whether as files or objects, the end user – the human being to whom the data belongs – does not necessarily have to be as diligent. It can be just as easy and effective to simply search for a document, or a collection of emails, by a keyword, or a concept rather than store them hierarchically in folder systems.
Over the years it has become easier and easier to find things just by searching. Many users, for example, see no need to create subfolders for documents or email, when a keyword search brings up files from wherever they may be. This represents quite a shift in the approach to managing data, moving, metaphorically from the neatness of a filing cabinet to something more akin to a needle in a haystack – except that finding the needle is easy instead of impossible.
This may be why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seems so enthusiastic about the release of Microsoft Delve, a personal “find-anything-anywhere” app that promises to revolutionize the way in which accessing documents occurs. As can be seen in this Garage video, Delve (which used to go by the code name “Oslo” – the place of its birth), seeks documents and presents search results in a visually pleasing collection, reminiscent of Pinterest. The “found” documents and files appear with thumbnails of any high-resolution media that are included in the original, and the search parameters can include keywords of course, but also concepts such as “documents that were delivered to me.”
The PR around Delve describes it as “information that can find you,” which points to its machine intelligence that learns your habits and tastes, and presents the most likely offerings to you first.
This is not the first app of its kind to search, find and present your documents in ergonomically pleasing ways, but being a child of the huge Microsoft family, it comes with some pretty strong genes. Currently Delve is free for anyone who has a Microsoft Office 365 subscription.
These interactive, proactive and intelligent approaches to information management take people a few more steps into the future, where the nebulousness of the cloud is actually misleading, and which instead offers direct, personal and highly relevant packages of information just where and when we need them.
By Steve Prentice