The Financial Times reports that Microsoft is paying around $250m to acquire Swiftkey, maker of a popular predictive keyboard installed on more than 300 million iOS and Android smartphones.
A person close to the deal said: “There’s a war for talent in artificial intelligence — and companies like Google and Microsoft recognise the best talent is in the UK.” Besides “autocorrect that actually works”, Swiftkey says that its technology learns slang, nicknames and even which emojis its users prefer. Its Android keyboard supports more than 100 languages, including Arabic, Icelandic, Welsh and several Chinese and Indian dialects.
“We see ourselves as a language technology company, not just a keyboard company,” Jon Reynolds, co-founder of the company, explained to the FT in 2013.
Swiftkey is currently available for iOS and Android devices but not Windows phones. The app is free and the company has had revenue of $8.4 million last year. It comes pre-installed on some Samsung and Blackberry handsets.
Swiftkey is just the latest Microsoft app purchase, with Microsoft spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy Acompli, an email app, Wunderlist, maker of to-do list software, and Sunrise, a calendar app.
Swiftkey has more than 150 employees in London, San Francisco and Seoul. Many are expected to join Microsoft Research to work under Harry Shum, according to people close to the company.
Microsoft has not commented on the deal, or whether they will bring the application to Windows 10 Mobile.