This morning, Microsoft made it official. They bought SwiftKey for $250 million. As is usual with these acquisitions, the Android and iOS apps will continue to run as normal, at least for now. That's what Microsoft did with Sunrise Calendar, but they announced last October that they will be integrating it with Outlook and then shutting it down. This acquisition appear to have come out of the blue, no one really expected it. So why did Microsoft buy SwiftKey?
Well one of the bigger reasons is Artificial Intelligence. Something that the company has been working on for quite some time. SwiftKey is a London-based startup that uses AI in its keyboard to determine what you are going to type next, and it even does this with Emoji's in your keyboard, based on how you've typed words, sentences, and paragraphs before. SwiftKey's team is about 150 members strong and has been working on AI for about 5 years now. The team will likely be absorbed by Microsoft and put on various research projects for the company. Microsoft hasn't mentioned what exactly is happening to their employees however.
Don't forget, Microsoft is working on their own keyboard called Word Flow for the iPhone (and will likely come to Android later on). And this purchase would definitely help them with that keyboard. By buying SwiftKey, they might just axe the Word Flow project and use SwiftKey as their keyboard on other platforms. This could also mean that SwiftKey is coming to Windows Phone, and could even become the default keyboard on their OS.
Microsoft also runs the third largest mobile operating system, although Windows Phone is a distant third behind Android and iOS. One of Windows Phone's biggest issues is apps. While there are apps available, many of the bigger players don't exist in their app store, yet. Microsoft has been buying some apps that are only available on Android and/or iOS, then implementing them into their own apps. For example Sunrise calendar as mentioned before, is being integrated into Outlook. Or Accompli – an email app – which is also being integrated into Outlook.
Many may think that $250 million for a keyboard is pretty crazy. However, SwiftKey is the second most popular keyboard on Android right now – with Google keyboard ahead of it, likely only due to the fact it's pre-installed on every Android device. SwiftKey is one of the best keyboards out there, if not the best. But Microsoft is buying more than a keyboard here, as we've already outlined. For now, SwiftKey is operating as usual, however we'll have to wait and see what Microsoft really does with the company and the app in the near future.