Microsoft announced a major new search offering – well – by forcing people to search for it.
The announcement came late on the afternoon of Friday March 29th in the form of a cryptic email invitation sent to Microsoft partners. The e-mail was CCd to Microsoft Partners who were part of the Azure, PowerApps, and Flow Partner programs, and invited recipients to follow clues to a website where special news would be shared. This was followed by a series of reply-all emails, saying things such as “Is this a scam?”, “I’ll bet this is a scam”, “But the headers say it’s definitely from Microsoft”, and “Stop replying to these emails!!!!”
Participants in the impromptu scavenger hunt, which took place over the weekend, were required to complete a variety of tasks. These included traditional web searches as well as sending photographs of everyday items. One such item was “one of those plastic eggs you get at Easter time”. Another was “an extreme close-up of a politician’s nose.”
The final hurdle required joining a Microsoft Teams meeting, where callers had to wait for nearly 40 minutes in an open room before someone from Microsoft finally joined the call to make the announcement. Needless to say, the attrition rate was well over 80%. “Thank you all for joining us today.” the representative from Microsoft said. “Sorry we’re late, we didn’t actually want to do this meeting. But, since you’re here, your patience will be rewarded.”
Apparently, the new product is called Microsoft Find and purports to be a “search engine for real life”.
Microsoft marketing materials state “Find uses the latest in AI, machine learning, and regular expressions to develop a pattern of human behavior. These models allow Find to simulate activities performed in everyday life, and thus make statistically accurate predictions about where you place objects and how you interact with them in the real world.”
“Unlike other devices designed to help locate missing items, Find does not require any hardware and it can be used to search for things you did not know you would lose. You can use Find to locate your wallet or keys, your boss’s brain, checks-in-the-mail, or evidence of collusion. The possibilities are limitless.”
As a demonstration, the representative used Find to locate Jeff Bezos’ socks. Mr. Bezos was unavailable for comment.
Find will integrate with Bing and plans are in place to support IFTTT. Support for both Cortana and Alexa are anticipated, but Siri and Bixby will probably end up feeling left out.
Product logos and other supporting documentation were not available at this time. However, a representative from Microsoft said “We’ll probably just put a big letter F on top of something that looks vaguely like a box with a magnifying glass or a GPS map or something.”
Some people on the conference call expressed concerns about privacy, due to Find’s need to gather and analyze enormous quantities of personal data both for its users and those people who live and work around them. The representative dismissed these, saying “The data is out there. Worrying about it now is like locking the barn door after the horses have eaten your children. Besides, Facebook has been doing this kind of stuff for years.”
Find will be available soon on the Microsoft 365 platform with a targeted release in early June, which means it’ll probably drop in October or later. Early access subscribers should be able to start working with Find sooner than this. It will be included in Microsoft 365 Business and higher plans. No details are yet available regarding standalone pricing, whether it will be included under core Office 365 plans, or planned availability in GCC.
By the way, if you liked this concept, perhaps you can use Find to help locate a VC who will actually fund its development. (Happy April Fool’s Day.)