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With Genee Buy, Microsoft Gives Cortana a Little Sibling

A virtual assistant tuned for scheduling meetings through natural language in e-mail, SMS, Twitter or chat is the latest tuck-in acquisition by Microsoft as it continues to advance its Office 365 cloud productivity platform.

Microsoft on Monday announced a signed agreement to acquire Genee for an undisclosed sum. The San Francisco-area startup was founded in 2014 and had raised $1.45 million in first-round funding last August. Founders Ben Cheung and Charles Lee will join Microsoft.

The Genee bot joins Cortana, Microsoft's flagship personal assistant technology, which is becoming more and more of a platform as AI and chat-based technology get increasing focus from Microsoft.

Still in beta, according to the company Web site, Genee's main use case is an e-mail to set up a meeting. Addressing an e-mail to the person or people the user wants to meet with, the user would cc genee@genee.me as if Genee were a live personal assistant. Sample text, according to an example message on the Genee site, might be, "Hi Adam -- looking forward to launching the marketing initiative next week. Genee, please find availability to meet for 60 minutes any day next week in the afternoon."

From there, Genee takes the natural language request and compares calendars it has access to and sends links of available times to those whose calendars Genee can't view.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Rajesh Jha described it as especially useful for scheduling meetings among large groups and in cases where you don't have access to someone's calendar.

The Genee service will shut down on Sept. 1, according to a blog post Monday by the Genee co-founders. Details about when the Genee service will spin up as part of Office 365 or under a Microsoft brand weren't immediately available.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 22, 2016 at 10:08 AM