Microsoft has acquired Genee, a startup that provided a virtual assistant for scheduling appointments.
The deal, announced Tuesday, will bring the Genee team into the Microsoft fold and put them to work on bringing intelligence into Office 365. Genee’s service let users loop in an artificial intelligence assistant that could interpret sentences like “set up lunch at some point this week” and turn them into calendar appointments.
Acquiring Genee is part of Microsoft’s ongoing crusade to build intelligent productivity software and services using AI. The company has focused on that area under the tenure of CEO Satya Nadella, with features like Office Delve, which finds documents shared within an organization that are relevant to a user, and Focused Inbox in Outlook, which filters unimportant email into a separate tab so it’s not cluttering a user’s experience.
The Genee service will be shutting down on Sept. 1 as part of the deal. It’s unclear whether the functionality from the assistant will be making its way directly into Office 365, or if the team behind Genee will just be put to work improving a variety of Microsoft’s products.
It would make sense for that sort of natural language scheduling capability to make its way into Outlook, as well as into Cortana, the virtual assistant that Microsoft has been aggressively pushing people to use on a variety of platforms. Genee’s goal of giving intelligent assistants to people who don’t have human assistants meshes well with what Microsoft is doing.
This all plays into Satya Nadella’s ongoing strategy of aggressively acquiring companies to shore up Microsoft’s capabilities and growth areas. The firm has had a number of high-profile acquisitions this year, including purchases of app development platform Xamarin, intelligent smartphone keyboard SwiftKey, and a blockbuster agreement to acquire LinkedIn for more than US$26 billion.
The purchase price of Genee was not disclosed.