Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot To The Web – First Look

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot logoI’m a big fan of Microsoft Live Labs. Actually Microsoft Labs itself. In case you didn’t know, Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference 2009 or PDC09 is happening. A lot of announcements have been made in the past two days and if something’s clear then it’s Microsoft’s intentions for the web. Azure, Sharepoint, Silverlight 4 and even talk about Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 are all indicators. In one of the sessions Microsoft Live Labs demoed a project called Pivot. Tom Warren over at Neowin attended that session. While Pivot is in some form of limited availability build and one requires an invite to get access, you can get one too. So here’s what Pivot looks like:

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot home page collection

My first impression was that this is the good old MSN Explorer on steroids :D Pivot is a browser with a focus on categorization and filtering the results. This isn’t meant for your Facebook and Orkut or even Twitter (that doesn’t mean you can’t). This one’s for finding information and data based on extensive backend categorization. Data & information is put into Collections and anyone can create these collections, some of the collections that come when you install Pivot are:

  • US Presidents
  • World Leaders
  • Concept Cars
  • New Cars
  • Actors
  • Sports
  • Animals

From what it seems, it looks like integrating the vast data collated by Bing and showing it in a more usable and beautiful browser to give you a better experience in obtaining detailed information. And it’s not just generic information from the web that’s pulled but Microsoft has even integrated an option to access the Xbox Live Marketplace. You can now search for game information based Genres, Price, Rating, Dates, Developers. These categories vary from collection to collection. For cars, you’ll have Manufacturers, Body Style, Transmission, Fuel, Engine Type etc. Here are some more screen shots of Pivot:

The Xbox Live marketplace:

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot Xbox Live Market place

You can view data as a graph bar or a grid. The Xbox Marketplace screen shot is the grid view here is the bar graph view:

microsoft live labs pivot bar graph collection view

microsoft live labs pivot bar graph collection view

The Filter bar on the left & the description on the right:

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot Collection Filter and categories

The top bar allows you to change the size of the thumbnails, go back and forward, visit your recent pages and enter a URL. The bottom bar you have the options of opening new tabs, going to the home page or the Collections page:

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot Bottom bar tabs collection

What make Pivot so damn interesting are two things:

  • the really slick and beautiful UI (which is now becoming a trait in the Live Labs team.)
  • the extensive and detailed filtering and categorization – this is the next web.

For what it’s worth Pivot might make it to the iPhone (like Seadragon) we don’t really know the future plans but Kip from LiveSide had the chance to interact with the genius behind the project – Dr. Gary Flake of Live Labs and this what he had to say:

Here at Live Labs we’re all about experiments, and Pivot is our most ambitious to date. Pivot makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. We tried to step back and design an interaction model that accommodates the complexity and scale of information rather than the traditional structure of the Web.

Since I now have the full version of Camtasia, I thought of doing a quick video of me playing with Pivot, here it is:

download microsoft live labs pivot

UPDATE: I’ve got a code that can be used by 9 guys other than me, drop me a comment and I’ll email it to you on the address you supply in the comment form.

UPDATE #2: I think I’ve crossed 9 time usage limit of the code.