Genee is an artificial intelligence startup, but we’re not talking robot-overlord AI. Really, it’s a smart chatbot that helps schedule meetings. It accepts commands in natural language and handles the back-and-forth drudgery of scheduling. Microsoft envisions using the technology inside the Azure cloud, as a feature for Office 365.
This won’t exactly change the landscape of public cloud services. But it shows that Microsoft wants to get creative with features as it tries to catch up to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The cloud titans realize they can’t compete on price forever, so they’ve been stressing features for developers as well. Microsoft, because of Windows and Office, has ties to the enterprise end user that competitors don’t, and the Genee deal seems to be an attempt to build on that advantage.
Microsoft is No. 2 in public cloud market share but lags AWS. Recent figures from Synergy Research show that AWS’ market share exceeded 30 percent in the second quarter of 2016, while Azure’s hadn’t reached 15 percent.
On the other hand, Synergy shows Microsoft grew 100 percent year-over-year compared with AWS’ 53 percent. Microsoft started from a smaller base, true, but the numbers suggest it’s OK to consider Azure an up-and-coming competitor.
Founded in 2014 by Ben Cheung and Charles Lee, who will be joining Microsoft, Genee raised $1.45 million last August, when the service started its public beta.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Genee’s own service will be shut down on Sept. 1.