Microsoft cops Talko for Skype stuff

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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.

It was launched publicly last fall, with about a half-dozen employees at its Boston headquarters and another five scattered between Seattle and San Francisco. 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. Microsoft will get the company’s employees and plans to use some of its technology to help improve Skype, the Microsoft-owned video-calling service. 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. But Talko itself will be shut down. “The reality is that the broad-based success of communications apps tends to be binary: A small number of apps earn and achieve great viral growth, while most fall into some stable niche,” Talko said. 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.

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.

But he praised chief executive Satya Nadella: “I continue to be deeply impressed with Satya’s leadership and the company’s ambitions and progress in mobile productivity. 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. 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. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft once called Ozzie, who was still a competitor at the time, one of the greatest programmers on the planet. (For Ozzie’s take on 30 years of Windows, check out this story.) Ozzie, who initially joined Microsoft as one of its chief technology officers, was within a few months elevated to Microsoft’s chief software architect, stepping in for Gates himself. Communications innovation will clearly be key to those efforts.” Ozzie previously worked at Microsoft after the company bought an early Boston-area startup, Groove Networks, in 2005.

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. Looking forward to figuring out what’s next.” Initially, Ozzie gained fame via Lotus Notes, development of which he led from Iris, a sort-of independent entity from Lotus. 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 0.44% 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.

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