Microsoft reportedly buys SwiftKey for $250M as part of AI buildout

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2016
Microsoft is looking to expand on its artificial intelligence program with the reported purchase of UK-based developer SwiftKey, makers of the popular cross-platform predictive keyboard of the same name.




Citing people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reports Microsoft paid out some $250 million for SwiftKey and its underlying technology. While the firm markets an eponymous predictive keyboard that has seen success on both Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms, as well as BlackBerry 10, it's the artificial intelligence that Microsoft is after.

"There's a war for talent in artificial intelligence -- and companies like Google and Microsoft recognise the best talent is in the UK," one source said.

Current versions of SwiftKey apply an artificial intelligence algorithm -- the so-called "n-gram" database -- that monitors user input and applies a word sequence model to return highly personalized next-word predictions. The process is more accurate than existing software keyboards that suggest words based on low-level pattern recognition running on static databases.

Of particular interest is SwiftKey's Neural Alpha product for Android, a predictive keyboard that taps into an artificial neural network capable of detecting linguistic structures. On a basic level, an ANN is designed to mimic human brain functions by "learning" or understanding not only word connections, but context and meaning.

The neural model is trained to parse through and connect millions of inputs (words), assigning each a numeric code. This allows the system to dynamically compare words to understand their relationship and meaning, SwiftKey says. By adding on a prediction module, SwiftKey hopes to quantify nuanced human language, a complexity often lost on machines.



As the acquisition is not yet public knowledge, Microsoft has declined to comment on its plans for SwiftKey. For now, the SwiftKey Keyboard app is currently available as a free download on the iOS App Store.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    A quarter billion?

    ....and people say Apple's Beats acquisitioin was too much.
  • Reply 2 of 13
    steviestevie Posts: 956member
    Apple beat Microsoft a long time ago.  They should just roll over and play dead.
    cali
  • Reply 3 of 13
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,919member
    These are the kind of acquisitions Apple should be looking at - cloud, big data, AI related.
  • Reply 4 of 13
    These are the kind of acquisitions Apple should be looking at - cloud, big data, AI related.
    I agree - who cares if you overpay 100 million - good AI is the future. I'm tired of SIRI's failings - Apple needs to go all-in in this arena. If you can't do it in-house - buy it now!
  • Reply 5 of 13
    cali said:
    A quarter billion?

    ....and people say Apple's Beats acquisitioin was too much.
    Yep. Talk about a desperation play. This company only had sales of £8.4 million. Massive overpayment.
    cali
  • Reply 6 of 13
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,591member
    That does seem like rather a lot.  :/
  • Reply 7 of 13
    This is very bad. I love SwiftKey and I hate Microsoft. Microsoft stuffs up everything they get their hands on.
    palomineargonautcali
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Another thing... Allegedly this is Microsoft buying talent to 'build out their AI' efforts? People aren't obligated to stay on when a company is sold. They're not property.
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Yeah, and paying $3 billion for a headphones company and paying $250 million to acqui-hire top AI talent the likes of which doesn't exist in the US (or anywhere else but the UK) are SO TOTALLY the same thing. Especially considering that Microsoft is competing with Google and Facebook in this space (not Apple), both Google and Facebook are much further along in AI than Microsoft is, so buying this company before Google or Facebook was able to get them was a good move. Right now the 3 big players in AI are considered to be Facebook, Google and IBM. See http://seekingalpha.com/article/3856076-google-lead-artificial-intelligence Microsoft bought Swiftkey so they could be #4. Again, this is far more consequential than buying headphones. Also, it is far more consequential in buying a biometrics company just to delay Samsung and Google's adoption of fingerprint scanners for - gasp! - one whole year. That's right. Apple bought Authentec so Samsung's having a good fingerprint solution was delayed until the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 instead of the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, and so Google wouldn't be able to add native code for fingerprint scanners until Android 6.0 instead of being able to get it into Android 5.0. And how much was delaying the competition for 1 year, at most 18 months, worth to Apple? $356 million dollars! And get this: fingerprint scanning tech is very narrow. As a matter of fact, Apple has already derived all the benefit that they will ever get from spending over 1/3 of a billion on Authentec. By contrast the quarter-billion that Microsoft paid for Swiftkey can be used to add ongoing value to a host of their existing enterprise and consumer products, plus create any number of new ones. $3.36 billion for a pair of hardware companies with limited potential and application (Apple has already shut down the Beats app that was part of the deal, and no they didn't need that Beats app to create Apple Music) versus $250 million for a software company that has huge potential and broad applications. This is one of the rare times that I would say that Microsoft got the better deal. Then again, since Sundar Pichai took Microsoft over from Ballmer, their making good moves is becoming less and less rare.
  • Reply 10 of 13
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    bulldogs said:
    By contrast the quarter-billion that Microsoft paid for Swiftkey can be used to add ongoing value to a host of their existing enterprise and consumer products, plus create any number of new ones. 
    Yes, it *can* be used to add ongoing value. 

    But *will* it? And will consumers actually care?
  • Reply 11 of 13
    bulldogs said:
    Yeah, and paying $3 billion for a headphones company and paying $250 million to acqui-hire top AI talent the likes of which doesn't exist in the US (or anywhere else but the UK) are SO TOTALLY the same thing. Especially considering that Microsoft is competing with Google and Facebook in this space (not Apple), both Google and Facebook are much further along in AI than Microsoft is, so buying this company before Google or Facebook was able to get them was a good move. Right now the 3 big players in AI are considered to be Facebook, Google and IBM. See http://seekingalpha.com/article/3856076-google-lead-artificial-intelligence Microsoft bought Swiftkey so they could be #4. Again, this is far more consequential than buying headphones. Also, it is far more consequential in buying a biometrics company just to delay Samsung and Google's adoption of fingerprint scanners for - gasp! - one whole year. That's right. Apple bought Authentec so Samsung's having a good fingerprint solution was delayed until the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 instead of the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, and so Google wouldn't be able to add native code for fingerprint scanners until Android 6.0 instead of being able to get it into Android 5.0. And how much was delaying the competition for 1 year, at most 18 months, worth to Apple? $356 million dollars! And get this: fingerprint scanning tech is very narrow. As a matter of fact, Apple has already derived all the benefit that they will ever get from spending over 1/3 of a billion on Authentec. By contrast the quarter-billion that Microsoft paid for Swiftkey can be used to add ongoing value to a host of their existing enterprise and consumer products, plus create any number of new ones. $3.36 billion for a pair of hardware companies with limited potential and application (Apple has already shut down the Beats app that was part of the deal, and no they didn't need that Beats app to create Apple Music) versus $250 million for a software company that has huge potential and broad applications. This is one of the rare times that I would say that Microsoft got the better deal. Then again, since Sundar Pichai took Microsoft over from Ballmer, their making good moves is becoming less and less rare.
    You couldn't be any more stupid if you try. lol.
    edited February 2016 argonautcali
  • Reply 12 of 13
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 229member
    What nobody seems to care about is the fact that swiftkey transmits everything you type up to a cloud, aka servers. Any rogue developer can access that data and potential problems may arise. I rather be safe then sorry! Apple will come out with something similar or better hopefully soon! 
  • Reply 13 of 13
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,980member
    stevie said:
    Apple beat Microsoft a long time ago.  They should just roll over and play dead.
    Did Apple play dead when Microsoft beat them? 
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