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Posted on: October 21, 2014

in Blog

Microsoft and Equivio: Why it makes sense to eDiscovery and the rest of us

Microsoft and Equivio: Why it makes sense to eDiscovery and the rest of us

Among the eDiscovery industry’s mergers, acquisitions, booms and busts, few have gotten more attention than the recent announcement by Equivio and Microsoft of their intentions. Some of the comments have been harsh or cynical, focusing untowardly on the finances of the deal or self-centeredly on Microsoft’s intentions for our industry.

But most comments have been very thoughtful and forward-thinking. The best, I think, come from those who are looking toward the near-future convergence between the data we create and manage today and the absolutely necessary role of analytics in information governance.  Consider the historical trends:

  1. At less than 40 years old Microsoft is number 34 on the Fortune 500 and number 104 on the Global 500. It has been on the S&P 500 only since 1994.
  2. ILTA 2014 keynote speaker Peter Diamandis quoted a scholarly work that change is so fast and so pervasive in our lives that the average lifespan of S&P 500 membership has plummeted from 67 years to 15 years.
  3. Despite the episodic (or chronic) naysaying, Microsoft isn’t going anywhere. It effectively owns the desktop and most of the data center markets, and has recently been outrunning the S&P 500. It can afford to buy what it wants or needs and to make sure that the acquisitions work.
  4. Since 1987, Microsoft has acquired 166 companies. If you look at the list, you’ll quickly notice that you recognize very few of the names. MSFT has gone about its buying quietly, acquiring components of things it needs for its business. It is difficult to attribute this pattern to any one particular individual at Microsoft. It appears to be needs-based, and part of its long-term culture. Its list of divestitures is tiny. It has a huge vested interest in analytics and Big Data, and it has made few investments in this direction.
  5. At more than ten years old, Equivio is a bedrock foundation in an industry where change (including disappearance and irrelevance) is considerably more common than not. Over those years, Amir, Yiftach, Warwick and the team have brought us the benefit of their experience in math, text extraction, software engineering and analytics. They pioneered for us the important tools of near duplicate detection, message threading, and predictive coding – a unique focus on some of the biggest problems we needed to solve.
  6. Those of us who read Blair & Maron soon after it came out know that the problem of finding things in text is a difficult problem to solve. But that study was only the first of its kind as it relates to the retrieval of text in the litigation support industry. The now graybeards and TREC-ies who studied that paper know that Information Sciences has been grappling with hierarchies, clustering, precision and recall since early commercial digitization of text in the 1960s.
  7. One prediction from 1975 certainly holds true today, and perhaps it best sums up the connection between Equivio and Microsoft. “Substantial evidence that large document collections can be handled successfully by means of automatic classification will encourage new work into ways of structuring such collections. It could also be expected to boost commercial interest and along with it the support for further development.”

We think that our friends at Equivio have been heading in the right direction. We are happy for them that they are getting the attention that they deserve, and we thank them for their contributions to our benefit. The world of data created and stored in Microsoft applications is probably the largest collection of personal and commercial activity and behavior in history. We still have a lot to learn about how to find things in it.

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