Microsoft Announced on Wednesday that it has officially acquired intelligent mobile keyboard app ‘SwiftKey’.
The London-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up behind the app has been brought into the U.S. technology giant fold in a deal worth an estimated $250 million.
SwiftKey was founded by Jon Reynolds and Dr Ben Medlock in 2008, and the two stand to receive multi-million dollar windfalls from the deal.
The app is used on around 300 million smartphones, replacing the default keyboard with one that can write words by swiping between letters and can learns users’ typing habits to predict their next word.
Microsoft’s executive vice president for technology and research, Harry Shum, confirmed the deal in a blog post Wednesday morning, after rumors began circulating Tuesday.
“In the coming months, we’ll have more to share about how we’ll integrate SwiftKey technology with our Guinness World Record Word Flow technology for Windows,” said Harry Shum.
“In the interim, I’m extremely excited about the technology, talent and market position SwiftKey brings to us with this acquisition, and about how this further demonstrates Microsoft’s desire to bring key apps and technologies to platforms from Windows to Android to iOS.”
SwiftKey used to charge users for its app, but went free in 2014, moving to a freemium model that charged for additional features. Revenues fell that year to to £8.4m and losses increased amid a hiring drive, and the company was seen by some as an acquisition target.
In a statement on the company’s blog, founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock, wrote: ‘We’re excited to announce an important milestone on SwiftKey’s journey.
“As of today, we have agreed to join the Microsoft family.
“Our number one focus has always been to build the best possible products for our users. This will not change. Our apps will continue to be available on Android and iOS, for free. We are as committed as ever to improving them in new and innovative ways.”
Medlock added: “I’m incredibly proud of our team. It’s clear that the UK and Europe can hold their own with the world’s strongest tech talent.”
One of the attractions of SwiftKey is that it uses artificial intelligence techniques to speed users’ typing.
Last October SwiftKey announced an alpha version of a new neural-network-based SwiftKey keyboard that does a better job of predicting which word the user will type next.
Microsoft is believed to have a keen interest in the firm’s Neural Alpha app, as it would make its Cortana assistant more accurate.