Microsoft acquires Colloquis

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Microsoft acquires Colloquis

Microsoft's Zig Serafin was one of the keynoters today (Rich has a short video clip of his keynote). He covered Microsoft's Unified Communications plans quite extensively. It was a pretty good overview of Microsoft's plans in the unified communications space. Zig neglected to mention some interesting news announced by Microsoft today that they have acquired Colloquis, a provider of natural language processing technology and online customer interaction solutions.  Microsoft will utilize Colloquis technology to enhance the customer service experience on the Internet and incorporate the technology into its own products, including Windows Live to enhance online self-service. Basically you can be on a website and ask a question using natural language and Colloquis will provide answers. Interestingly, Vonage is one of their customers.

Key highlights of the announcement are as follows:
· Microsoft will initially offer a service called Windows Live Service Agents which enables businesses to interact with customers in conversational language.

· Windows Live Service Agents is a hosted service offering that provides businesses with the means to simplify access to information, streamline issue resolution, reduce support costs and improve customer satisfaction.

· Windows Live Service Agents will augment Microsoft’s existing contact center solution, Customer Care Framework.

· Colloquis’ technology can be used in a number of scenarios including customer self-service, enterprise information access, and marketing and community outreach.

here's the press release:

Microsoft Acquires Colloquis to Enhance User Interactions Online

Uses include customer self-service, enterprise information access, marketing and community outreach.
Microsoft Corp. today announced it has acquired privately owned Colloquis Inc., a provider of conversational online business solutions that feature natural language-processing technology. Microsoft will offer services based on Colloquis technology to businesses with online operations, as well as incorporating the technology into its own products.

“Today’s ‘anytime, anywhere’ world has established a standard of instant and easy access to all forms of information, media and content,” said Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of the Online Services Group at Microsoft. “Colloquis provides Microsoft with the tools and platform to build conversational capabilities into a wide array of applications that enable businesses to facilitate a simple and rewarding online experience for their end users.”

Initially, Microsoft will offer a managed service called Windows Live Service Agents based on the existing Colloquis Automated Service Agent offering, which has been implemented by companies such as Cingular Wireless, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Panasonic Corp. of North America, Time Warner Cable Inc. and Vonage Holdings Corp. Windows Live Service Agents provides businesses with a hosted Web-based customer service application that interacts with end users in conversational language, combining the ease of traditional online support with the valuable insight of natural language logic. Windows Live Service Agents will augment Microsoft’s existing contact center solution, Microsoft Customer Care Framework (CCF).

“Microsoft is focused on providing solutions such as CCF that will allow our customers to create a positive customer service experience regardless of the channel, be it phone, e-mail or the Web,” said Maria Martinez, corporate vice president for the Communications Sector at Microsoft. “With the addition of Windows Live Service Agents to our portfolio, businesses can simplify access to information, streamline issue resolution, minimize support costs and improve customer satisfaction.”

Xbox will be the first group within Microsoft to use Windows Live Service Agents. Colloquis technology will be a strong contributor in enabling Xbox customers to rapidly find helpful information related to their support needs. The conversational tone and ease of use of the product will offer customers another approach with which to address commonly asked questions, providing quick resolution to customer issues. The product’s technical flexibility makes it an excellent fit with other self-service options that Xbox plans to release in the fall.

In addition, Microsoft plans to take advantage of Colloquis Internet bot technology in an application called Windows Live Agents, a conversational application that users can interact with via Windows Live Messenger. These “agents” are used to entertain, encourage engagement with products or services, provide a new advertising opportunity for brand advertisers, and drive search and information retrieval.

“The Colloquis team fully believes in the tremendous potential of natural language software in everything from improving customer service to helping brands connect better with their constituents,” said Stephen Klein, chief executive officer at Colloquis. “Microsoft has the resources to not only unlock that potential, but to leverage its expansive customer base to create truly innovative real-world uses. We’re excited to see what the future holds.”

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