I had the pleasure of meeting with Jon Herlocker and John Forbes this morning from Smart Desktop. Smart Desktop is part of Pi Corporation, the mysterious ‘personal information management’ company EMC acquired in March of this year. Pi is run by Paul Maritz, previously of Microsoft’s platform team and member of the Microsoft Executive Committee.
Pi, which is run as an ‘EMC Company’ (much like VMWare), has not yet released a product and has been in stealth mode for most of its existence. Maritz now oversees Pi and is president and general manager of EMC’s new Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division. Smart Desktop, which has a product currently in closed beta, is led by Herlocker (CTO) and Forbes (President).
Seems like a lot of executive management without much product yet, doesn’t it?? It certainly speaks to a grander vision, though what this vision includes from a larger EMC perspective is still under wraps.
But I did get a demo this morning from Smart Desktop and, grander visions aside, it’s pretty cool.
Smart Desktop is a desktop tool that aims to improve an individual’s access to information stored on the desktop or accessed from the desktop (i.e., Web pages) by grouping it into ‘projects’. This takes into account whatever organizational structure an individual has on the desktop in Outlook or Windows Explorer and whatever ‘activity stream’ is created as a user works. It makes recommendations as to what project content should be assigned to based on topics, email meta data, context and so forth.
The end result is that it is possible to view all content from multiple apps (Office, emails etc.) related to a project at the same time in one place. It’s tied nicely into Outlook so users can create new projects when an email comes in and all subsequent emails and documents deemed to be related to this project will be tagged by Smart Desktop. Smart Desktop recommends content to the user based on current activity and can also be used to view content activity via a timeline – so you could look at all content (documents, emails, web pages) you accessed during a particular meeting, for example.
There’s clearly a larger potential opportunity for this technology, which ultimately tracks the activity and information consumption of users on the desktop. It could be used to discover expertise or look at the usefulness of individual applications, though there are of course privacy concerns to be managed differently in various geographies.
I could hypothesize about how this all fits into EMC’s cloud computing vision, but won’t go too far down that road at this point. It’s not hard to imagine though how this technology, which is currently slated to be deployed in a desktop environment (there is also meant to be a server-based product), could translate to different types of delivery models.