Microsoft Snaps Up Ray Ozzie's Talko App

The software giant seeks to bulk up its Skype and Skype for Business mobile communication capabilities.

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Add another acquisition to Microsoft's year-end shopping spree.

The Redmond, Wash., technology heavyweight announced it acquired Talko, a mobile messaging startup co-founded by the illustrious Ray Ozzie, for an undisclosed amount. "As part of the agreement, Talko employees will join the Skype team," said Microsoft's Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, in a Dec. 21 announcement. "Together, the new technology and talent will help us deliver great new features and capabilities in both Skype and Skype for Business."

The Talko app for iOS and Android combines text-based messaging, mobile photography and voice communications—with an emphasis on voice.

Last year, while lamenting that modern messaging solutions prioritize text over voice, Ozzie said Talko blends both for more effective, results-oriented mobile collaboration. "There's simply no faster and no more effective way to express essential emotions such as urgency, anxiety, understanding, confidence or trust. Quite simply, amazing things can happen when we just choose to talk," he wrote in blog post introducing his new startup at the time.

Now, after some success, Talko's tech is making its way to Microsoft.

"The app brought together messaging, calling, and conferencing—delivering a better way for mobile teams to communicate and be productive," reads a Dec. 21 advisory on Talko's homepage. "Thousands of businesses have used Talko daily to coordinate their work while on-the-go."

However, the app was settling into a niche, the Talko team said.

As engaged as Talko users have been with the platform, "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," they wrote. "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."

Skype and Skype for Business users can expect some of the app's trademark functionality to filter into the Skype experience. "As part of the Skype team, we'll leverage Talko's technology and the many things we've learned during its design and development," stated the post. "We'll strive to deliver the best of our product's innovations far more broadly than on our current path."

Those features may be cropping up soon. Microsoft will shut down the Talko service by May 2016. Current users can "rest assured that we'll be giving you a way to request an export of all your past Talko conversations—voice, text, and photos—as simple files," pledged the Talko team.

The Talko deal follows a rash of late-year acquisitions by Microsoft.

Four days ago, the company announced it had acquired Metanautix, an analytics software firm. On Nov. 5, Microsoft announced it had acquired Mobile Data Labs, maker of the popular MileIQ mileage-tracking app for sales professionals and other business travelers. Days later, Microsoft bought Secure Islands to boost cloud security on its cloud services, including Azure and Office 365.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...