Microsoft to acquire XOXCO to bolster push for conversational AI

Donna Miller
November 16, 2018

It will be the fourth AI-related company to be acquired by Microsoft, this year.

Today, Microsoft is expanding its AI portfolio as it announced its intention to buy XOXCO, a software product design and development company responsible for the development of Slack's Howdy bot. Lily Cheng, Corporate Vice President for Conversational AI at Microsoft, said in a blog post that the company has been collaborating with XOXCO over the past few years.

XOXCO was initially founded in 2009, though the company came into bot development in 2013.

In 2015, it secured US$1.5 million to develop chatbots, which can perform productivity tasks such as allowing people to automatically chatbotse online meetings in their digital calendars.

Microsoft has made its strongest move yet into the emerging field of conversational AI by acquiring XOXCO for an undisclosed amount.

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Cheng pointed out that conversational artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers whether it is creating virtual assistants or redesigning customer interactions.

In a blog post, Microsoft said it sees a "world where natural language becomes the new user interface", helping people be more productive.

Today, Microsoft plans to use XOXCO's technology to improve the Microsoft Bot Framework, which now supports over 360,000 developers. "With this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate".

Microsoft announced Wednesday that it would acquire XOXCO, the software company behind a friendly chatbot called Howdy, that helps users of the popular Slack work chat app schedule meetings.

Microsoft has been making consistent efforts in the realm of conversational AI that have been more evident during the last six months. As the company notes, it has bought several AI development companies this year, including conversational AI developer Semantic Machines in May, reinforcement learning and simulation company Bonsai in July and deep learning specialist Lobe in September. "The acquisition of GitHub in October demonstrates our belief in the power of communities to help fuel the next wave of bot development", Cheng wrote.

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