Microsoft officials have demonstrated that Cortana is going to get smarter about work in the not-so-distant future. But exactly how Cortana will be able to help users with tasks like finding files in OneDrive for Business has been a bit murky.
Work Assistant, from what my contacts have said, is a helper app, designed to enable Cortana and Bing to do work-specific tasks, such as find a PowerPoint deck a user last accessed a week ago.
I've included in this post a couple of screen shots of Work Assistant shared with me a couple months back by a contact who asked not to be named.
The Work Assistant screen shots indicate that the app can handle file names, file locations, file types, "last access" dates, and supports commands including find, open, edit, send and share, among others. It enables users to perform natural-language queries, such as: "Send my planning deck to Kat Larsson," and "Share my formula bar spec with my current meeting."
One more seemingly related aside: There may be multiple "personal assistant" apps and services in the works from Microsoft.
I stumbled recently onto a Microsoft job posting for a "senior applied scientist in Bing engineering that mentioned "personal assistants" (plural). From that job posting:
"Are you interested in joining the team that has powered natural language understanding for Cortana and Bing and is now at the forefront of Personal Assistants, Productivity, Enterprise and Entertainment products for Microsoft? Our users crave a personal assistant that helps them to complete the tasks they have in mind, from managing their calendar, travels, and errands, to recommending them movies and restaurants, as well as having social chats with them. The personal assistant should understand the user intent and help him accomplish his tasks, no matter how he phrases them. The conversation with the personal assistant is often done with spoken natural language queries and with multi-steps dialog, unlike the traditional keyword search queries."
I've asked Microsoft officials for comment on Office Now. I'll update this post if and when I hear back.