This year, Microsoft has been talking up bots and how they will become increasingly important and relevant in our lives. With bots dedicated to specific tasks, like ordering pizza, handling travel bookings, or altering the time or destination of a package delivery, the capacity and availability of underlying infrastructure will become of great importance.
Already, the company has seen significant uptake from the developer community after releasing its Bot Framework back in March this year. While Microsoft has been thrilled with the response, it is looking to kick things up a notch with the announcement of a brand new service.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the launch the industry's first bot-as-a-service capability, called Azure Bot Service. The service leverages the existing Bot Framework in addition to the company's popular cloud platform.
In her announcement, Lili Cheng, Distinguished Engineer in Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, said:
"With this cloud service, you can build, connect, deploy and manage intelligent bots that interact naturally wherever your users are talking – from your app or website to text/sms, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Teams, Kik, Office 365 mail and other popular services."
The Azure Bot Service can also help developers shorten build times by incorporating Microsoft Cognitive Services into their bots, allowing them to "hear, interpret, and interact in more human ways." Other services, such as Azure Search, can also be used to enhance bots with additional capabilities. Numerous out-of-the-box templates have also been provided to help kick start bot development.
While it remains to be seen how popular Microsoft's bot-as-a-service offering will become, the company is playing to its ecosystem strengths, in laying the foundation for the development of scalable bot solutions.