Feature: The Personal Workspace Evolves

In a sign of progress for data hunter-gatherers, Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Google are taking steps toward higher order personal productivity environments that will let you interact with enterprise data.

On April 19, Google announced new BI-related capabilities for its Enterprise Search Appliance. These are created primarily through alliances with leading software providers like Cognos, SAS and Oracle. The new capabilities are focused in what Google calls "OneBox for Enterprise," a feature they are migrating from the Google public search site.

OneBox is a combination customized search facility, user interface convention and information integration "lite." With OneBoxes enabled, if a user types a query in the Google search bar that the system can recognize as a special kind of information it knows about--such as a FedEx tracking number, an airline flight number or a major city or corporation name--Google will return a highlighted box at the top of its normal results list offering one-click access to services that are appropriate to that information. You can try this out on the Google site; you may have experienced OneBox without looking for it.

The appropriate service links in Google's OneBox would take the user not to a document about FedEx or packages but directly to the FedEx package tracking Web site, or to the airline flight status pages, weather information for a major city or stock ticker information for a listed corporation.

The point of this increasingly popular feature, of course, is to let the user escape the drudgery of reviewing the documents or pages in a results list and cut to the chase to link to actionable information if it fits the context of the user's search.

In the enterprise context, OneBox results could include a broad range of internal options, such as links to specific BI reports, personalized dashboards, graphical displays or custom services such as customer information profiles. This is BI access direct from the search interface, and Google and its partners are betting that many users will find this kind of search-powered access attractive.