According to a new report from The Financial Times, Microsoft may acquire AI-powered Keyboard Maker SwiftKey for around $250 million, with plans to announce the acquisition this week.
SwiftKey has been one of the most popular keyboard apps on iOS and Android. It launched on Android in 2010 and came to iOS in 2014. Around that time, SwiftKey switched from selling its app to offering in-app payments for new keyboard themes.
The report suggests that SwiftKey may not have been as financially successful as it hoped, which would make sense given the spread of its main feature: a swappable keyboard, which is now a default option on many smartphone keyboards.
While it may seem strange for Microsoft to buy a keyboard app when it already has a perfectly good one, the report makes it sound like Microsoft may be more interested in SwiftKey’s research into artificial intelligence. The keyboard maker recently launched an Android keyboard that uses neural networks to predict the words.
The research in neural networks, including the people working on it, can likely be applied to a lot more than keyboards, so the SwiftKey app itself may only be one part of what Microsoft is interested in.
For those who are interested, a neural network is a system of algorithms that attempts to operate in a similar manner to the human brain. A neural network is initially “trained” by feeding large amounts of data and rules about data into the system. A computer program is then written to tell the computer how to use the rules, thus allowing the system to reason about the data it receives in a way that is similar to the human brain.
If you are interested in learning more about neural networks, you can check out this interactive demo written by Adam Harley, who is currently pursuing his masters degree in computer science at Ryerson University.
Owning SwiftKey would give it another strong name across both platforms, particularly on Android, where Microsoft has shown a lot of interest in developing custom experiences.
The purchase shows that Microsoft continues to be willing to buy its way into a better mobile position, especially with software that works on rival devices. In recent months the company has purchased email program Acompli and calendar app Sunrise.