Update, February 3: Both Microsoft and SwiftKey have confirmed the acquisition. The SwiftKey team will be joining Microsoft and continue to work on the Android and iOS apps, which will continue to be available for free in the respective app stores.
SwiftKey’s technology will be integrated into Microsoft’s own Word Flow keyboard (which was recently revealed to be coming to iOS and eventually Android), as well as other products in the future.
According to Microsoft EVP of Technology and Research Harry Shum, the acquisition “further demonstrates Microsoft’s desire to bring key apps and technologies to platforms from Windows to Android to iOS.”
The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.
Original post, February 2: In what may be bad news for Android users who are fans of one of the world’s most popular virtual keyboards, Microsoft is acquiring SwiftKey to the tune of $250 million. It seems that Microsoft wants to use the keyboard, which has been installed on over 300 million devices, as well as SwiftKey’s artificial intelligence research to bolster their slipping foothold in both the mobile market and the burgeoning AI field.
While many people think of SwiftKey solely as a predictive keyboard, if a sometimes unsettlingly prescient one, the company also has quite a bit invested in adaptive learning and AI algorithms that allow human behavior to be accurately predicted. Stephen Hawking’s current language assistance program, after all, was designed by SwiftKey, and the company is developing tools to help other communicatively disabled people engage in the world around them via their Symbols app.
The 150-employee company is based out of London, and its co-founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock both can expect to make over $30 million individually from Microsoft’s buyout. Acquisition of AI frontrunners is something of an arms race in Silicon Valley right now. Google seems to be leading the way with their far-reaching DeepMind research (a company they acquired in 2014), but apple isn’t far behind with VocalIQ, an AI software set with natural applications for Siri.
Acquiring SwiftKey accomplishes two objectives for Microsoft. Recently, the Windows creator has been buying up mobile tech left and right in an attempt to push their way back into a game that has become overwhelmingly Android/iOS dominant. Meanwhile, although they have been pursuing AI in smaller avenues, Microsoft hasn’t had any big-hitter that could attempt to rival DeepMind.
No word yet on how this will affect the SwiftKey keyboard – which is not available on Windows phones – on Android and iOS. Neither Microsoft nor SwiftKey have elected to comment on this matter as of yet. Hopefully our beloved keyboard will not meet the same fate as Sunrise, a calendar app that was gripped, stripped, and digested whole by Microsoft like a bacterium in the grip of mighty amoeba last year, only to be assimilated entirely into Outlook.
What do you think is going to happen with SwiftKey? Let us know what you think in the comments below!