Today we’ll chat about “Explore”. In discussing Unify and Organize, we already touched on a lot of Explore, but relational exploration is so cool that there is plenty to talk about.

WinFS gives you the ability to use relationships to find and display your data. In the PDC video, we showed an app that takes a range of dates and displays the location for your meetings on the map. As it draws the best route to drive between all your meetings, it adds icons that represent your contacts and important customers at their location on the map. Now, as you visualize your schedule, you can see who is close by and set up lunch.

Let’s walk through how WinFS made this possible. The app is able to query for all your appointments in a certain date range. It displays each appointment in the proper place on the map by using location of the meeting. Today it would be tough for a map application to do this, because your appointments are in a different application or maybe even more than one application. Assuming you can access the meetings programmatically, accessing the location may be hard. Your calendar app probably just has a field called “Location” that can contain an arbitrary string and would be tough to parse correctly. With WinFS, all your appointment information is in a single store with an API that let’s any application access the data uniformly.

Next, the application finds contacts and customers with high priority issues that are located close to where you will be and displays them on the map, by using the address of the contact. If you select a contact, the app can display some information for the person (a photo and contact info for example). From there, you can send them a mail to setup a lunch while you’re in town. Again this would be tough to do today; your contact information is probably in a silo that your map application can’t get to. Plus, chances are, your customers with high priority issues are tracked in a completely different application silo.

We’ve already talked about having a photo app that could sort and display the photos based on the people in them. In addition to this functionality, it would be pretty easy to enable the app to sort the photos by location (an image property), by event (an association to an evite or meeting) or even by the person that sent them to you.

WinFS is key because it has significantly rich data and new organizational constructs powered by a relational engine. I don’t have to worry about scale as my store grows, because WinFS is built on an enterprise scale relational engine. When users have millions of items, they won’t have to worry about their systems getting bogged down.

In reality, there are tons of really interesting relational exploration scenarios that WinFS enables:
- "Find me all the pictures and videos from my hockey games against the Iceoholics."
- "Find me all the mail from people I’m meeting with today."
- "Find me all the documents I need to review that my boss updated since our last meeting."
- "Show me all the previous Halloween party pictures I have of people that are invited this year."
- And so on

As you start to think about the difficulty of making these scenarios work today, the power of relationship exploration should become clear. Think about it, now I can find things without having any idea of where they are stored!

Hopefully, this starts to explain how WinFS helps you explore your data in ways you can’t today. Next time, we’ll finish up our value prop overview with “Innovate”.

Author: Vijay Bangaru