REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 12, 2001 — Cell phones chiming. Pagers beeping. Email pinging. Handheld devices ringing. Do the echoes of modern mobile communication sound like efficiency and convenience, or do they simply sound overwhelming?
Advances in mobile and wireless technology allow people to keep in touch like never before. While all this connectivity undoubtedly keeps people better connected to work and loved ones, for many people the volume — both decibels and quantity — is quickly reaching overload levels. And with most people living at a faster and faster pace and trying to juggle so many roles in their lives, the volume of communication will only continue to increase.
Against the backdrop of the DEMO 2001 conference in Phoenix, Ariz., Microsoft will announce the beta availability of Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager, a new desktop PC application that extends the power, reach and functionality of Microsoft Outlook to a wide variety of mobile devices. Using smart technology, the application tracks how a user interacts with his or her Outlook communications. Mobile Manager then uses these preferences and priorities to automatically develop filters that govern which email messages, calendar entries, contacts and tasks should be sent as urgent notifications to wireless devices such as text-enabled mobile phones. In addition, Mobile Manager provides increased functionality, including enhanced mobile security, when used in conjunction with its parent product, Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 Server.
A Debut at DEMO 2001
At the heart of Mobile Manager are new technologies developed by Microsoft Research (MSR), the research division of the company, which is tackling some of the toughest problems in computer technology. These
features help users of Microsoft Exchange — who number 68 million worldwide — intelligently filter and prioritize email notifications, and thereby lead a more efficient mobile lifestyle. The leading-edge technology used in Mobile Manager includes automated learning and decision-making, natural language processing and customizable priority profiles, which work together to help users better manage their mobile communication.
These examples of automated reasoning are being demonstrated today at DEMO 2001, an annual conference with a reputation for showcasing the years most innovative products and breakthrough technologies. In its eleventh year, DEMO brings together 800 of the high-tech worlds leading thinkers, journalists, analysts and venture capitalists, and is devoted to demonstrations of products and technologies that are likely to have a significant market impact in the coming year. Over the years, some of technologys most successful products have debuted at the conference.
“Its a great honor to exhibit Mobile Manager at DEMO 2001,”
says Paul Gross, senior vice president of the Mobility Group at Microsoft.
“The release of Mobile Manager at DEMO demonstrates Microsofts ongoing leadership in the development of mobile technology and of innovative products like Mobile Manager.”
Mobile Manager is one of only 75 products and technologies selected to appear at the show — from among the 1,200 potential exhibitors screened for this years meeting by the conference co-producers, Jim Forbes and Chris Shipley.
“We selected Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager for the DEMO 2001 conference because its technology delivers groundbreaking ways to help people better manage their electronic communications,”
“The artificial intelligence and filtering mechanisms that Microsoft Research contributed to the product — such as the ability for the application to analyze and intelligently prioritize a users email — are truly visionary and trend-setting.”
Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager: A Showcase of New Technology for the Enterprise End User
“Microsoft’s Outlook Mobile Manager is an innovative example of the kinds of technologies and tools that are quickly becoming a necessity for both the mobile professional and wireless-enabled organization as their communications systems become busier and more complex,”
For example, Mobile Manager uses automated learning and reasoning methods to develop an understanding about a users most time-critical email communications. Mobile Manager automatically builds personalized filters that govern which email messages to send as urgent notifications to mobile devices, guided by a users preferences. The adaptive technology eliminates the need for cumbersome input of manual rules.
Another communications management feature of Mobile Manager allows users to create distinct individual profiles (work, home, out-of-office and do-not-disturb). Each profile captures preferences about communications that work together with the personalized filters to guide notifications through to a mobile device.
Also developed by MSR, Intellishrink is a feature of Mobile Manager that uses natural language processing technology to summarize messages. Intellishrink allows Mobile Manager users to choose automatic message-condensing options such as removing spaces, using familiar abbreviations, removing punctuation and removing vowels. By removing unnecessary characters and words, a message can be compressed down to 30 percent of its original size.
Full Integration with Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 Server
Mobile Manager provides increased functionality when used in conjunction with its parent product, Mobile Information Server. For example, using Mobile Manager with Mobile Information 2001 Server gives IT professionals the management tools to enable advanced message formatting, secure message forwarding to mobile devices and mobile access to information on corporate intranet sites. The combination also gives mobile users full desktop email functionality, including the ability to browse, reply, forward, compose and delete email on any mobile phone with a microbrowser.
Mobile Manager will also be tightly integrated with the upcoming release of Office XP, the newest version of Microsofts suite of productivity tools and programs, due for release in late spring.
“Peoples lives are not neatly compartmentalized between work, individual and family time — especially when it comes to the kinds of information and services they want to have available on a personal, mobile device,”
“Mobile Manager, together with its parent product, Mobile Information Server, is an integral component of Microsofts overall mobility strategy, and is intended to help people live a more efficient and enjoyable mobile lifestyle by bridging the gap between access to information and control over how and when that mobile information is received.”
Microsoft Research Puts the Smarts into Mobile Communications
Eric Horvitz, senior researcher and group manager at Microsoft Research, says that its important to remember that Mobile Manager isnt just technology for sending messages to mobile users. Its also technology for not sending messages.
“Lets say youre at a long offsite meeting,”
“Mobile Managers presence-detection system knows that youre not online, and that it should be on the watch for important messages to send along to your mobile device. If you receive an email alert, youll know its typically an urgent message coming in that you probably want to look at. On the other hand, if you dont receive any alerts, it’s likely that nothing in your inbox requires your immediate attention. So, Mobile Manager can filter out the buzz of non-urgent messages, and give busy users the comfort that they really have nothing new to worry about while they are out of the office.”
One of the most innovative aspects of Mobile Manager is its capacity to evaluate the relative importance and urgency of electronic communication.
“We use automated reasoning methods to scan through the structure and content of email messages,”
“The system discovers distinctions and then builds filters that best discriminate urgent from non-urgent email. The technology considers multiple classes of evidence, including linguistic information capturing patterns of language usage. Mobile Manager also considers evidence about relationships. Is the mail addressed just to the user, or to the user and just a few people, or to a large alias, and so on? Does the sender appear in the users address book? What does Exchange indicate about the structure of the organizational relationship between the sender and recipient? Mobile Manager leverages all of this information to build an ideal personalized filter that automatically assigns a measure of urgency to each incoming message.”
“Mail can be important but not necessarily urgent,”
“You can look at important email at any time. You dont want to lose it, but theres no loss of value in reading it later at your desktop. With urgent mail, theres a loss of value with delayed review. Weve integrated adaptive methods into Mobile Manager that endow the system with an ability to sense which mail is urgent and should be seen as soon as possible, and which can be put off until later.”
Horvitz has a longstanding interest in urgent decision-making. He has a PhD as well as a medical degree from Stanford University, and he says that his doctoral work often dealt with urgency, though of a different sort.
My PhD work involved looking at time-critical trauma scenarios and how to build computer programs that could infer the best way to allocate attention and resources to patients in emergency situations, such as car accidents,” Horvitz says. “That research led to prototype systems that could assist with the triage of patients. Our thinking behind our methods for identifying urgent messages and making good decisions about sending email notifications is similar. For both, the challenge is doing the right thing in potentially high-stakes, time-critical situations. The difference is that at Microsoft Research weve been focusing on triaging information . We apply automated learning and reasoning to determine which email needs to get to a users mobile device right away, versus those that can wait until later.
“Were very excited about this concept — a bunch of us at Microsoft have been using the research prototype ancestor of Mobile Manager in daily life for several years, and have come to rely on it in the way one might rely on a great secretary that has learned about your priorities. We look forward to seeing it in the hands of users,”
This is just the start. I’m really looking forward to a time when some of the other information triaging technologies we’ve been developing begin to deliver value to users in the real world.”