August 24, 2016
Microsoft acquired Genee, a smart scheduling app that can help improve the company’s virtual assistant Cortana. Currently, Cortana can track packages and set reminders based on location among other tasks but, with Genee, it could also automatically set business meetings simply by recognizing key phrases in emails. That’s just one of the many tasks that an AI-enhanced Cortana would be able to do, all based on Genee’s ability to interpret language. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Wall Street Journal quotes Microsoft executive Rajesh Jha as saying in a blog post that the Genee purchase will help “further our ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience,” especially with regard to “new Office 365 productivity capabilities and services.”
Forrester Research analyst Mike Gualtieri notes that “both Google Now and Siri can interact with calendars to coordinate meetings on command,” and that other tasks that AI-enhanced tools can do “might include automatically making travel arrangements, or ordering lunch.”
Genee, founded in 2014 by Ben Chueng and Charles Lee (both of whom will join Microsoft), “uses natural language processing, optimized decision-making algorithms and chat bots to create a virtual personal assistant.” When the user copies Genee in email, Genee “can detect when two parties agree to meet,” scans a calendar for available dates and then emails a message invite, as well as subsequent updates and reminders.
“We consider Microsoft to be the leader in personal and enterprise productivity, AI, and virtual assistant technologies,” said Chueng and Lee. The Genee service will close down September 1, but already-created calendar entries will remain.
Other recent stategic Microsoft purchases include smart messaging app startup Wand Labs, which folded into the Bing engineering and platform team “to develop intelligent agents and chat bots,” and the AI-powered SwiftKey, “that learns from users’ typing history and the Internet usage to predict what they intend to type, trimming the time it takes to enter text messages, emails and other communications.”
AI is a growing field; International Data Corp. predicts that, “the global market for cognitive software platforms and applications — a rough proxy for the AI market — [will] grow to $16.5 billion in 2019 from $1.6 billion in 2015, with a compound annual growth rate of 65.2 percent.”