Microsoft pays £173m for British virtual keyboard maker

In the biggest British tech deal of the year so far, Microsoft has confirmed it has bought UK AI firm SwiftKey for $250 million (£173 million).

Founded in 2008 by Jon Reynolds and Ben Matlock, London-based SwiftKey creates predictive keyboard technology powered by artificial intelligence. SwiftKey is currently running on more than 300 million Android and iOS devices.

In a blog post, Harry Shum, executive VP of technology and research at Microsoft said: “In this cloud-first, mobile-first world, SwiftKey’s technology aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands, and directly supports our ambition to reinvent productivity by leveraging the intelligent cloud.”

Shum said SwiftKey’s employees will now be joining Microsoft, adding: “We believe that together we can achieve orders of magnitude greater scale than either of us could have achieved independently.”

Microsoft will continue to develop keyboard apps for Android and iOS as well as working to incorporate the technology into its own product lines.

Shum added that Microsoft “[will] have more to share about how [it will] integrate SwiftKey technology with our Guinness World Record Word Flow technology for Windows” in the next few months.

Microsoft is not alone in bringing AI into its portfolio, nor in acquiring that technology through the acquisition of UK companies. In 2014, Google bought DeepMind for an estimated cost of at least $400 million, which has since been shown off producing some psychedelic images while trying to interpret photos.

Apple meanwhile acquired natural language processing AI firm VocalIQ in October 2015 to help improve its virtual personal assistant on iOS, Siri.

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