Thanks to MHashmi for the heads up!
The world's largest software company said Thursday it had acquired privately held Colloquis Inc., which makes software that lets customers instant-message with a computer to get answers to tech-support questions or information about new products. Microsoft plans to use the technology to let consumers of its Xbox video-game console get online tech support in the coming weeks, and eventually plans online agents that can promote new products and serve up ads. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
According to Microsoft's Dickey, supporting Xbox customers is just the first step in the company's plans for Colloquis. Microsoft hopes to build avatars, or virtual online characters, that users of its Windows Live Messenger software can interact with by sending instant-messages--for example to a character in a new movie. Advertisers could insert spots into the IM conversation, he says. Colloquis' technology could also be combined with speech recognition and synthesis software to let drug companies build apps that connect patients and doctors, or software companies provide technical information to developers. "We're just scratching the tip of the iceberg here," says Dickey.