But is it really natural to go to a web browser to find information? Or should information be readily available from the desktop and sensitive to the context of your current task?
I expect we some day will see information retrieval become a natural part of workflow. Search will be integrated into the desktop.
Tasks will become more of a collaborative process. Your focus will remain on your task, but the computer will become your assistant, bringing relevant information closer to you should you need to reach for it.
Microsoft Researcher Susan Dumais recently said:
We can make it easier for [people] to get results without leaving the application they're in ... Search is not the end goal. We want to show people results in context and help them integrate those results into whatever they're doing.With their control of the desktop, Microsoft is in an ideal position to drive toward this future.
At Microsoft Research, the Stuff I've Seen project seeks to allow rapid access to any information you have seen before on your computer. Implicit Query tries to surface relevant information on your desktop without an explicit search. Search personalization targets search results using additional data about the user and the context of the search. Priorities and The Scope intend to focus your attention on important information and avoid unnecessary interruptions. Scalable Fabric and Data Mountain offer task-focused advanced user interfaces for managing your information and work, interfaces that are impossible to reproduce in a web browser.
If these can be combined, refined, finished, and moved into the Windows desktop, Microsoft may be able to build a task-focused, advanced user interface that organizes your information, pays attention to what you are doing to help you find what you need, and surfaces additional information and alerts only when it is important and relevant.
It would be an experience impossible to reproduce in a web browser, a jump beyond the 1994, one-box search interface we still live with today.