Microsoft buys communication startup Talko, will shutter service in 2016
Microsoft Buys Another Ray Ozzie Company.
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft said Monday it’s buying Talko, absorbing the Ray Ozzie-founded start-up’s technology and employees to build out functionality on Microsoft’s Skype communication network. Ozzie served as Microsoft’s chief software architect until 2010 after joining the company when it acquired one of his earlier startups, Groove Networks.
Massachusetts-based Talko, a mobile app for consumer and business communications that launched in Sept. 2014, creates multi-person conversations combining voice, text and photos in an evolving timeline. Talko will be shutting down in the next several months, according to a note on the startup’s website, and its technology will be integrated into existing Microsoft apps. “Today we’re announcing that Talko’s been acquired by Microsoft to help fuel future innovation in Skype and Skype for Business,” the note from the Talko team read. “As part of the Skype team, we’ll leverage Talko’s technology and the many things we’ve learned during its design and development.
This time it’s Talko, a Boston-based startup dedicated to helping workgroups (or families or other sets of associates) collaborate using their smartphones. The app uses Voice Over Internet Protocol technology and was founded by Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes who later served as chief technology officer at Microsoft. We’ll strive to deliver the best of our product’s innovations far more broadly than on our current path.” Buying and getting the best from mobile marketing technology doesn’t need to be difficult.
If this rings a bell to long-timers it’s because ten years ago Microsoft bought Groove Networks, Ozzie’s then Boston area startup geared for, yes, computer-assisted collaboration. It’s the latest bite-sized acquisition for Microsoft, which is trying to shift its business model from one that’s focused on software license sales to one that makes money off its customers’ increased use of cloud services.
When Microsoft MSFT 1.26% engulfed Groove Networks, some of the startup’s technology ended up in SharePoint and some of its revolutionary synch technology—viewed as Groove’s secret sauce—ended up in OneDrive. Last month, Microsoft announced Skype for Business, an enterprise focused version of the video-and-voice messaging platform it purchased in 2011 for $8.5 billion. Talko launched in September 2014 after years of development, offering a service that aimed to replace your usual conference line with VoIP, cloud-based calls. The idea is to provide users of Office365 with an all-in-one communications solution, thereby capturing a market that formerly went to larger telcom providers. He told ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley he is “looking forward to figuring out what’s next.” The idea behind Talko was to make it easier for teams “on-the-go” to easily communicate with each other.
The app recorded the live conversations, and also offered additional features, like being about to create bookmarks within the conversation, tag users, and even add asynchronously shared voice-based follow ups to the conversation in question. Update: Ozzie reached out via email to say he will not re-join Microsoft, but the rest of Talko’s San Francisco-, Seattle- and Boston-based employees will do so.
For all the value and enjoyment it’s delivered, and for all the team’s listening and perseverance, Talko was largely on the path to filling a (passionate) niche. We’re in this to have great impact, so it’s time for a change.” This is not the first time Ozzie, the Lotus Notes founder, has sold a company to Microsoft. When IBM bought Lotus for $3.5 billion in 1995, then-IBM IBM 0.43% chairman Louis Gerstner said the main driver was Notes, a pioneer in PC-based collaboration. Notes did fine for years but ran into heavy headwinds in the form of the Microsoft Exchange Server-Sharepoint tandem, which took market- and mind-share from the trailblazer. Ozzie demonstrated his then-new technology for USA TODAY in 2014, showing off how an archived company meeting that included messages, slides and conversations could be reviewed later by someone who had missed the conversation.
The developers seemed to have found a way not only for colleagues to know when others were online but to also retain audio or other notes of meetings and forward them when workgroup members were available. But since coming out of stealth in 2014, things have been quiet, causing some to wonder if Talko was gaining traction and if additional funding was scarce. Although employees in Talko’s Boston and San Francisco offices will fold under Microsoft’s wing, Ozzie confirmed in an email to Fortune that he would not be rejoining his former employer.
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