The subject of the software giant’s wish is Genee, a two-and-a-half-year old startup that was working on a “virtual assistant” that uses natural language processing to set up meetings on one’s behalf. The software recognizes phrases in email such as, “Find a time to meet with Andrew next week,” and then it hunts options that work on everyone’s calendar.
“It’s especially useful for large groups and when you don’t have access to someone’s calendar,” wrote Microsoft corporate vice president Rajesh Jha, who manages the Outlook and Office 365 services, in a blog post about the acquisition.
Terms of the takeover weren’t disclosed. Genee’s co-founders Ben Cheung and Charles Lee intend to join Microsoft when the deal is closed.
Cheung’s credential include stints as a product manager at Jive Software and VMware (vmw). Lee, a software engineer, also previously worked at VMware as well as an application monitoring startup, Hyperic.
As with many of its recent acquisitions (such as the Sunrise mobile calendar), Microsoft plans to shut down the standalone Genee service, which will come rather quickly on September 1. The intention is to roll its features into Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud applications suite, according to the company.
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Microsoft has made several other AI-related investments this year, including its acquisition in February of SwiftKey, which makes software that predicts what someone is typing—think of it as a way smarter autofill feature.
It would be tough these days to find a tech giant that isn’t investing in artificial intelligence as a means of helping automate routine business processes or to power sophisticated predictive analytics algorithms.
Among the most recent deals, for example, Intel bought machine learning specialist Nervana Systems, which is working on software and chips that could speed up AI processing. That deal came just one day after Apple bought a firm called Turi, its third AI-related buyout in the past year.