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Microsoft to tap Genee online intelligence for Office 365

Microsoft plans to use startup Genee's online intelligence to automate calendaring tasks in Office 365. Microsoft acquired Genee this week.

Microsoft plans to use its recent acquisition of startup Genee Inc. to add intelligence to Office 365 that reduces the amount of time corporate employees spend on calendaring.

Genee's online technology records meetings and is especially useful for large groups in which the organizer may not have access to everyone's calendar, according to Microsoft. Genee's online intelligence performs scheduling through natural language processing and proprietary algorithms.

The acquisition, announced this week, is the latest example of a unified communications (UC) vendor tapping artificial intelligence as a way to boost user productivity by cutting the time spent on routine tasks. Another example of online intelligence in UC is Cisco's plans to use IBM's cognitive computing platform, Watson, to add machine learning to the Spark collaboration service.

Genee's online intelligence capabilities focus only on calendaring. As an example, the technology can read an email and understand the sender is trying to schedule a meeting with the recipient. At that point, Genee can send an email with available times based on the originator's calendar and later send a meeting invite.

Tsahi Levent-Levi, an independent analyst and consultant on UC and collaboration technology, said he expects vendors to add artificial intelligence to calendaring first, followed by messaging. "Maybe later we will see this truly getting into UC with some interesting use cases that aren't just text-related," he said.

Genee co-founders join Microsoft

Genee co-founders Ben Cheung and Charles Lee, who started the company in 2014, will join Microsoft to help build services in Office 365. "I'm confident the Genee team will help us further our ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience," Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president of Outlook and Office 365 at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. Microsoft did not disclose financial terms of the acquisition.

Microsoft's largest UC rival, Cisco, plans to add intelligence in the form of virtual assistants to its UC and collaboration products. In an interview at the Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas last month, Rowan Trollope, who heads the company's collaboration technology group, said his unit is exploring ways in which virtual assistants could retrieve information, do scheduling and stand in as a proxy for people using the Spark collaboration service.

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