Microsoft readies more developer tools for its 'Project Cortex' knowledge-management service

Microsoft's Project Cortex knowledge service is still on track to be generally available this summer. Microsoft has 75 companies privately testing Cortex and is working to get more developers on board.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is still on track to deliver its 'Project Cortex' knowledge-management service in early summer 2020. During the opening day of its Build developers conference on May 19, officials outlined more of the developer story and deliverables for Cortex, which is Microsoft's first major new Microsoft 365/Office 365 service since the company introduced Teams a few years ago. 

On May 19, officials provided details on new Microsoft Graph application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow developers to work with the Managed Metadata Services underlying Cortex. These services will provide a common taxonomy for tagging and classifying content across Microsoft 365. In addition, developers should "soon" be able to work directly with knowledge and tags using new extensions to the Microsoft Graph, also announced on May 19. 

Officials said Cortex is now in private-preview testing with 75 customers. The plan seems to be to move Cortex directly from private preview to general availability in the next few months. 

Microsoft introduced Project Cortex in November 2019 at Ignite. Cortex won't be a separate, customer-facing app or destination like Teams or Exchange; instead, it will bubble up relevant content about people, activity, documents, and more inside of existing Microsoft applications. Basically, Microsoft is trying to automate and make more intelligent the way customers currently use custom document-management systems to handle, manage, and update their documents, videos, training information, recorded meetings, etc. 

Credit: Microsoft

With Project Cortex, Microsoft is encouraging customers to create a knowledge network inside their companies that uses data that they already have inside their organizations. Cortex will assist by collecting all of the information together, figuring out what is knowledge inside of an organization, and then making that widely accessible inside that organization. 

Project Cortex will figure out from an organization's data the rich set of topics, the experts, and the available resources, which organizations can subsequently build on top of and tailor in a Wiki-like way. Project Cortex will use some elements of the new, unified Microsoft Search to help with indexing content, officials have said.

Cortex is the next iteration of the metadata service Microsoft built for SharePoint, rebuilt for taxonomy reasons. In addition to this metadata service, Cortex is built on top of Microsoft's LUIS language-understanding/machine-teaching technology; the AI Builder Power Platform service; Azure Cognitive Services; and "Alexandria," which is probabilistic-programming technology that provides relationship-mapping between topics.

Microsoft and partners are building Microsoft Graph content connectors to integrate more than 100 external data sources directly into the Graph. Customers can also opt to build their own custom connectors for integrating other data sources using the Microsoft Connectors API, which is in public preview. Users also will have the ability to build language-understanding models in Azure and import them into Cortex, officials said.

Officials have said they will discuss Cortex pricing and licensing when it launches. They have said it will be a premium product that will not be included in baseline E1 or E3 service bundles.

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