If you've followed the chatter coming out of the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, you've probably heard of Microsoft's new framework, Office Graph and Project Oslo, a new search-driven app built on Office Graph. In a standing room only ballroom, Cem Aykan, senior product manager, Enterprise Search at Microsoft and Ashok Kuppusamy, group program manager, Microsoft, dove deeper into these two topics and showed us how Microsoft is pushing the envelope for more modern user experiences across the SharePoint and Office families.

Microsoft intends Oslo and Office Graph to solve the problem of finding the right information in a timely fashion. Office Graph combines documents, people and conversations that are relevant for any given user. Personalization through your identity is the glue that binds the experience together.

To demonstrate how this works, Microsoft developed Project Oslo. Oslo is a search-driven app that offers a modern user interface (UI) for aggregating content. The UI itself is reminiscent of Flipboard and other similar apps that tout enhanced usability through relevancy and frankly, big pictures. Aykan and Kuppusamy reiterated this by simply saying that they wanted this experience to “look awesome.”

The inspiration came from the bland default SharePoint interfaces that most people recognize. The default SharePoint interfaces have hurt its image in the market, causing misperceptions of SharePoint's capabilities due to lacking default interfaces. Oslo can “promote” content in a different way than any other experience that Microsoft currently has at its disposal. And it does look great.

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Aggregated Search in One Interface

In the Oslo demo, Aykan and Kuppusamy used the example of a user who needed to put together a PowerPoint presentation and upload it to SharePoint. The challenge? Useful information for the slide deck was located in multiple content sources. The speakers demonstrated how one could find relevant information across federated sources and build the presentation from within the Oslo experience. The key here is that you never have to leave the interface to make this happen, everything happens right in the browser.

Learning Opportunities

Oslo places a lot of emphasis on personalization, as the entire experience is driven by the user. Once logged in, you see the main feed that aggregates content from any source being crawled. In the demo, we saw documents, web results, Yammer conversations and a reference to information stored in Dynamics CRM. The user can also find other “non-promoted” information with a few quick links (e.g., "Recently Edited by Me,” “Presented to Me,” “Liked by Me,” “Shared by Me”). Each source presented content in its own way, but showed how simply one could find information throughout the enterprise. And you can just as easily view another person’s relevant content by viewing their profile.

Oslo and Content Discovery

Another major feature of Oslo deals with content discovery. Let’s say you’re curious about things that are important to John Smith. Simply search for “Trending around John Smith” and search pulls up a list of items that are important to John Smith. If you want to drill further, add a search term to the end. It was a quick way to discover content that might not appear on your main feed, for lack of better term. The visible content is permissions based, showing only what’s available to you that isn’t otherwise locked down.

Oslo is slated to release in the second half of 2014. For now, it looks as though the web and Windows 8 app will be part of that release. But iOS, Windows Phone and Android apps are supposedly on the way -- it’s unclear if that will be ready at launch. It’s also unclear as to whether or not Oslo will get fast-tracked for on-premises deployments.

If you’re reading between the lines at this conference, Microsoft is slowly pushing on-premises to the back burner in favor of cloud-friendly Office 365. No specific answers were given during the session on the subject of on-premises for Oslo, which speaks volumes as to where Microsoft’s goals are currently aligned. Stay tuned later this year for the release of Oslo on the Office 365 platform.