Microsoft Acts Naturally

Microsoft continued its strategy of small, strategic acquisitions with the purchase of Colloquis, a developer of conversational online business solutions that use natural language-processing technology.

Microsoft  plans to use the Colloquis technology in both its online services and within its software products.

Colloquis is a privately-held firm. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It has 36 employees in New York and Sunnyvale, California, who will remain where they are now based.

Microsoft plans to continue to sell the Colloquis software to third parties. Its customer base includes Cingular Wireless, Comcast, Cox Communications, Panasonic, Time Warner Cable and Vonage.

The first step will be the establishment of a service called Windows Live Service Agents, a hosted, Web-based customer service application that interacts with end users in natural, conversational language. Windows Live Service Agents will supplement Microsoft’s existing contact center solution, the Customer Care Framework (CCF).

The first online group to use Live Service Agents will be the Xbox group, which will use it to service Xbox Live customers. Microsoft also plans to make it available through Windows Live Messenger.

Clinton Dickey, group product manager in Microsoft’s communications sector, said there are no formal plans as yet beyond the Xbox team, as they are looking at how to integrate the company, but it will happen.

“We see far reaching potential into, MSDN, any parts of where there has to be customer interaction, we could use this service. We expect this will be used widely throughout Microsoft, that there will be more uses for it than we could think of,” he said.

Colloquis functionality will start showing up in XBox Live about a month from now and in other Microsoft products in the next six to nine months.

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