Microsoft is on a spending spree. Quick on the heels of its $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition, the Redmond, Wa.-based tech giant snapped up messaging app developer Wand Labs for an undisclosed sum.
Microsoft's David Ku, corporate vice president of the information platform group, blogged that the acquisition accelerates the company's vision and strategy for Conversation-as-a-Platform, which CEO Satya Nadella introduced at the company's Build 2016 conference in March.
"Wand Labs’ technology and talent will strengthen our position in the emerging era of conversational intelligence, where we bring together the power of human language with advanced machine intelligence — connecting people to knowledge, information, services and other people in more relevant and natural ways," Ku said.
It builds on and extends the power of the Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms, he added.
It may also be another attempt to compete with Facebook.
In April, at its Facebook Developers Conference in San Francisco, the social media giant launched its Messenger Platform (Beta) with bots. Facebook will deploy its bots to provide Messenger users with automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates in addition to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages.
Analysts speculated the Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn was a direct salvo at Facebook to compete with Facebook at Work.
Guess who else is integrating chat bots with messenger capabilities? Google's Allo is a forthcoming messaging app that lets you embed cards and other information pulled instantly from Google search. And the company's predictive powers will let you offer auto-replies, much like with its Inbox email application.
Intelligent Agents & Chatbots
Ku said Wand brings Microsoft expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration and conversational interfaces. This, he said, makes the platform a great fit to join the Bing engineering and platform team, "especially with the work we’re doing in the area of intelligent agents and chatbots."
He called Wand Labs CEO Vishal Sharma a "unique talent and a well-respected thought leader in this area."
Sharma said the Wand team began work in 2013 integrating services into the chat experience.
"The goal being to leverage mobile scale, natural language capabilities and third-party services to enable users to easily access and share any authorized service or device," he said in a post on the Wand website. "The work we’ve been doing with predictive assistance and delegated authority is at the leading edge of a broader technology shift that is redefining the information industry."
"Making experiences for customers more seamless by harnessing human language," he said, "is a powerful vision and one that motivates me and my team."
New AI Option for Outlook, Office 365
The news follows Microsoft's artificial intelligence (AI) integration with x.ai, an AI meeting scheduler. The company, x.ai, announced this week that its AI personal assistant can operate across Microsoft Outlook.com and Microsoft Office 365 calendars to schedule meetings.
Microsoft users can also enlist x.ai’s personal assistant, Amy Ingram. Amy’s brother Andrew also schedules meetings.
For the past two years, x.ai has supported only Google calendar.
“We knew from the start that enabling Amy and Andrew to work across the Outlook.com and Office 365 calendars would be one of the first things we did, once we had trained the machine to schedule meetings nearly autonomously,” CEO and Founder Dennis R. Mortensen said in a statement.
“We want all of the nearly 90 million US knowledge workers to be able to take advantage of this technology. That represents roughly 10 billion meetings a year, and we want to schedule every single one of them.”