Just two weeks after Microsoft announced that it had purchased MinecraftEdu, a company specializing in using Minecraft as an educational tool, the Redmond-based company looks set to make another acquisition.
The Financial Times reports that Microsoft is in the process of finalizing a £250 million deal to acquire British software firm SwiftKey, the developers of predictive keyboards in use on over 300 million Android and iOS devices.
The keyboard uses artificial intelligence to assess a user's inputs to help it to continuously improve the quality of its next-word predictions. A more advanced 'experimental' version has already been released, using deep-learning techniques and 'neural networks' to improve its analysis further.
Microsoft is no stranger to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, having made huge investments in these areas, bringing them to end-users through products such as its Cortana personal assistant, and applying them in other areas, like its Bing Prediction Engine. Last week, the company open-sourced the CNTK AI framework that it uses to power speech recognition in Cortana and its Skype Translator software.
The two companies have not yet confirmed the deal, but at first glance, it would appear to be a logical acquisition for Microsoft, which has spent huge sums buying up other software that gained a large following on rivals' mobile platforms, including the likes of calendar app Sunrise, email app Acompli, and to-do list specialist Wunderlist.
Its purchase of SwiftKey would add another major product to its portfolio of mobile software, while allowing it to acquire the underlying technology that powers it - and perhaps more importantly, the people who developed that technology too.