Google’s latest enterprise search offering emerged from its early adopter cocoon last week as Cloud Search. It is not a direct replacement for the sunsetting Google Search Appliance, but rather new search functionality for G-Suite. Cloud Search extends machine learning and predictive search across Google’s cloud-based productivity suite. These capabilities first surfaced about six months ago as “Quick Access” in Google Drive. The idea was that Google could give you the document you need in half the time it would normally take you to find and open it on your own.
Quick Access performs this bit of mind-reading by analyzing user behavior in their Google Drive accounts along with interaction patterns among users. Based on those behaviors, Google attempts to save you the trouble of searching by proactively presenting the document it thinks you need when it thinks you need it. The accuracy of those assumptions remains to be seen, but extending these capabilities across the entire suite of apps is a strong indication of Google’s faith in the future of predictive search.
If this strategy of predicting information needs based on user behavior and interactions across a cloud-suite sounds familiar, it should. This approach is basically the same idea as that behind the Microsoft Office Graph. Consider the splash page blurbs of the two services.
From Microsoft: The Office Graph represents a collection of content and activity, and the relationships between them that happen across the entire Office suite. … The Office Graph uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to connect people to the relevant content, conversations and people around them.
From Google: Quick Access predictions are based on an understanding of your Drive activity, as well as your interaction with colleagues and your workday patterns such as recurring team meetings or regular reviews of forecasting spreadsheets… It uses machine learning to intelligently predict the files you need before you’ve even typed anything.”
The first visible manifestation of the Office Graph was Delve which “brings you information based on what you’re working on, who you’re working with; always maintaining established permissions” and does so via an “intuitive card-like interface.” Google Cloud Search, by contrast, brings you “relevant information organized into simple cards (assist cards) … designed to be timely and relevant so that you can navigate your workday more efficiently.” Cards appear on your Google Cloud Search homepage based on recent activity and upcoming events. Similar to Delve’s use of Office 365 permissions, Cloud Search respects G Suite’s file sharing permissions.
So far, only two types of assist cards are available in Cloud Search: Pick up where you left off and Prepare for today’s meetings. This palette should expand quickly. Google promises, “As we continue to learn how information is most useful to you, we’ll be adding more assist cards to Cloud Search over time.“
This should in no wise be confused with Microsoft’s Office 365 trajectory which they describe by saying “As it continues to analyze relationships and deliver insights from across the tools people use at work every day, … the Office Graph will continue to evolve and deliver increasingly rich insights in Office 365.”
The parallel paths of Office 365 and G-Suite are further indications of the foundational nature of search technologies and machine learning in productivity and collaboration suites. Graphs are rapidly becoming the unifying fabric of the enterprise. Both Microsoft and Google are recognizing the power of this approach and leveraging it across their offerings. Other SaaS vendors will undoubtedly follow suit.