In the old days one needed supercomputers to analyze big data. American Express was the second largest customer for Cray after the NSA. Then you could do analysis on normal computer computers but with fancy software like T Cube. Now Microsoft plans on building these capabilities into Excel.
Next year’s version of the Excel spreadsheet program, part of the Office suite of software, will be able to comb very large amounts of data. For example, it could scan 12 million Twitter posts and create charts to show which Oscar nominee was getting the most buzz.
A new version of Outlook, the e-mail program, is being tested that employs Mr. Horvitz’s machine-learning specialty to review users’ e-mail habits. It could be able to suggest whether a user wants to read each message that comes in.
Elsewhere, Microsoft’s machine-learning software will crawl internal corporate computer systems much the way the company’s Bing search engine crawls the Internet looking for Web sites and the links among them. The idea is to predict which software applications are most likely to fail when seemingly unrelated programs are tweaked.