Microsoft debuts data visualization tool

Microsoft's PivotViewer for Silverlight promises easier handling of data

Microsoft has released a controller for its Silverlight multimedia software that can present dynamic visual summaries of large data sets in Web browsers.

Developed by the company's Live Labs research group, PivotViewer can visualize large collections of data in such a way to make them easier to order and analyze.

The software can offer a high-level summarization of the data and allow viewers to swoop down to inspect individual data elements in finer detail. The data visualization can also be easily reorganized depending on conditions set by the user, hence the word "pivot" in the name.

"It's more about using the content as the [user interface] rather than using controls or menus," said PivotViewer engineer Brett Brewer in a video posted by Microsoft.

Microsoft debuted the technology at its Professional Developers Conference last November and demonstrated it during the TechEd conference earlier this month, during the keynote of Bob Muglia, who is president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business.

The demos usually show PivotViewer operating in a browser, with the left-hand side of the screen devoted to a set of check boxes that can be used to filter the data set, and the rest of the page devoted to organizing small icons, each of which represents a particular piece of data.

The data visualization technology could be used for business intelligence, Web site navigation, and as a conduit for content management companies to easily present their libraries to users, Microsoft asserts.

The technology has at least one early adopter. The U.K. wedding planning site Hitched uses PivotViewer as part of its wedding venues visual search.

PivotViewer includes application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow designers to customize the control of the viewer. Data collections must be described in XML and include icons for each element, according to the software's technical documentation. The data then can be placed on a Web server, where it can be accessed by any browser running Silverlight and the viewer.

Joab Jackson covers enterpise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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