Posted July 3, 2010 8:10 am by with 10 comments

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Its rare that I will use the words “innovative” and “Microsoft” in the same sentence. But today I am breaking that habit to talk a moment about Pivot. Pivot is an innovative piece of software from Microsoft that makes it possible to visualize large sets of data in very interesting ways. Gary Flake demoed Pivot at TED back in March.

I have been playing with Pivot for about a week now, and can honestly say that its the first Microsoft product that I have been excited about in years! All I can think about is what it would be like if Microsoft combined Pivot with Bing’s search index. I mean can you imagine what that would be like? It would be the closest thing to a Google killer ever.

Unfortunately, I am afraid to to say that Pivot probably won’t progress that far. How do I know that? What’s my inside information? The cost that would be required to mashup Bing with Pivot is too large of a gamble for Microsoft.

Innovation dies when organizations are unable to fund a project to the end. Instead they get to a point where they can’t justify truly seeing it to full completion. This is a result of working within a corporate structure and culture that inhibits full innovative development.

Google on the other hand has a history of innovative culture. In Google they cultivate innovation without wasting resources. Somewhere around 50% of Google products come out of their “20% time” program. That means that Google is able to develop innovative products from start to finish without incurring added expenses.

As we build our companies it’s important that we remember that innovation is at the heart of growth on the Internet. Because of this, we need to always be mindful that oftentimes what is equally important is sustaining an innovative environment and culture throughout our companies growth.

  • Joe,
    I do agree with your premise on how funding issues kill a lot of great projects. I just don’t know if Micro$oft is the best example.

    You’re saying that Microsoft doesn’t have the cash laying around to fund potentially profitable endeavors? I know that they’ve lost a little of their swagger, but if you read the financial statements, they have enough cash laying around to buy a bunch of these hot new companies.
    If they don’t do something like this, it will be a Red Tape problem, not a Red Ink problem.

    • Microsoft does have tons of extra money you are right. But the resources that it would require to create visual search (read the below comment) for such a large data set seems to be out of this world! I guess only time will tell.

  • james k

    There is a beta of Visual Search which incorporates Bing and Pivot. i don’t know how this will scale to encompass a very large dataset, but it looks hopeful.

    • Wow James, that looks really cool. Yeah thats my biggest concern, scaling to such a large data set.

    • I guess the obvious question, assuming a large data set doesn’t break the program. Has someone figured out if Google Analytics can be fed into Microsoft Pivot Silverlight?

      Thanks in advance.

      • With Pivot you can make your own collections of data. Microsoft even released an excel plugin that can easily transform any spreadsheet into a data collection.

  • It is the last paragraph of this post that is so very important to companies building something new and basing their future on innovation. It seems that most I come into contact with usually have a goal in mind and when reached they fail to look beyond or at the very least wait until they are up against the bumper of the car in front. At OpenSky we think about constant innovation everyday and I believe this will remain a part of our corporate DNA/culture as we move from realized goal to realized goal.

  • Dang. That’s pretty darn cool. Seems like if Microsoft wants to stay relevant on the web they have to take some risks and make some big investments.

  • support!!

  • Wow, well i guess the future of campanies will depend on investment and innovation. Interesting video as always from Ted.