The Financial Times reported earlier today that Microsoft was in talks with SwiftKey to buy out the popular keyboard app. The rumour has now been confirmed by both, Microsoft and SwiftKey. The deal, confirmed by sources, went down for about $250 million.
Microsoft already has its own Word Flow keyboard app for Windows Phones, and was rumoured for an Android release. The keyboard app was used to set the Guinness World record for the fastest keyboard app, which was later broken multiple times using the Fleksy Keyboard.
It seems, however, that Microsoft is more interested in the artificial intelligence behind the SwiftKey app. SwiftKey offered unparalleled word predictions before the user types them. This clearly makes sense in a world with the growing role of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Microsoft already had its own keyboard app, so this had little to do with the mechanics of an on-screen keyboard.
Microsoft has been diving deeper to make its Cortana personal assistant smarter. On the other hand, SwiftKey has always talked about the potential of a keyboard to automate human input and its potential as a useful space for taking action based on contextual information.
SwiftKey recently released “SwiftKey Neural” which has a completely different prediction engine based on how human mind thinks. Not too long ago the company used its prediction engine to help Professor Stephen Hawking enabling him to speak faster. Another major revelation from the company was its Symbols app for people with autism and special communication needs.
Co-founders, Reynolds and Medlock, started working on the keyboard app 8 years ago. The team now consists of 160 employees and its prediction technology is used by leading mobile manufacturers like Samsung. It was released for Android in 2010 and iOS in 2014. Over that period the app has been downloaded close to 50 million times. The app has been used to save 10 trillion keystrokes in 100 different languages summing up to about 100,000 years saved in typing time.
SwiftKey founders said in a statement “As of today, we have agreed to join the Microsoft family“. They assured the users “Our number one focus has always been to build the best possible products for our users. This will not change. Our apps will continue to be available on Android and iOS, for free. We are as committed as ever to improving them in new and innovative ways.”
Microsoft’s Harry Shum, Executive Vice President for technology and research, confirmed the acquisition and that SwiftKey’s technology will eventually be integrated with Microsoft’s own keyboard app.
This acquisition alongside the buyouts of Sunrise, Accompli, Wunderlist and Liveloop means Microsoft has gathered some very powerful set of tools to complement its MS Office and productivity platform. These apps will also let Microsoft gain a notable presence on both, Android and iOS platforms.