Microsoft Moves More into Conversational AI

Last week when 8x8 made an acquisition I remarked that there would be more. A day later Dialpad announced their purchase. Today, it's Microsoft's turn with the purchase of Semantic Machines.

It's easy to speculate why its become a BUY vs. BUILD game surrounding AI. The smart money on the BUY side recognizes that there have been teams working on AI in many different discreet niches, and in turn those teams have developed massive understanding of those specific spaces. That knowledge and specificity is known as domain experience, so while 8x8's move is surrounding contact centers, and Dialpad's is around better understanding of the voice conversation in real time, Microsoft move is about the entire range of conversations (voice, video, text, bots)  between man and machine across the board in including ML (Machine Learning), NLP (natural language processing) and likely NN (neural networks).

My view is that AI will only get more entrenched in business and technology, and the buying of what imaginative minds create won't be stopping any time soon. But it's not the buying or building that matters. It's the implementation and adoption that does, for selling in is one thing, but selling through is where it counts.

SNARKY NOTE: Perhaps Microsoft will outsource the thinking behind Skype to AI, as pal Om Malik's quip from last week entitled "Skype Interrupted" and the related Bloomberg article, leads one to realize that the humans behind Skype sure aren't thinking.



Dialpad Adds Voice AI via TalkIQ Acquisition

Today Dialpad announced the acquisition of  TalkIQ. Just like yesterday's 8x8 AI acquisition this underscores my belief that VoiceAI will be as ubiquitous as collaboration. That means if you're a telco and you're not moving down the AI path and you offer functions like IVR, Voice recording, contact center or conferencing, not to mention regular calling you will be nothing more than PSTN 1.0, not VoIP 3.0.

AI brings lots of new features to telcos, and as I also implied yesterday, Cloud+AI+Fast Network means smarter, faster and cheaper interaction. But all that said, there is the requisite need for human intelligence and that's where neural networks will come into play. Adding a neural brings the ability to learn from a human, and then act like them. For contact centers, as the AI learns what to do right in each situation, the ability to get things done flattens.

The announcement by Dialpad, in which I hold shares, is the first stroke in the direction of where AI helps the entire calling process. More will likely come from this over time, as the service enters beta today, with scheduled launch for later this year.

8x8 Makes an AI Acquisition

Today long time VoIP pioneer 8x8 (the company formerly known as Packet8) made another in their ongoing acquisitions to bolster feature set, capabilities and likely to acquire more talent. They purchased MarianaIQ (MIQ) a company which has been around since 2013 in the AI space.

AI is the next battleground in telecom, and just like collaboration was to conferencing, AI will be the next rung on the ladder when contact centers, conference calls and even real-time one on one calls are being enhanced. With AI you get all types of use of the conversation that goes well beyond machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). AI in the call path will also supplant and surpass the concept of rules based responses. This replacement and advancement will occur when AI based smart IVR's come into play, and where they learn, can be corrected or confirmed by humans, and then based on what is the right answer or action, replicate that over and over again. And that's where the money is, or in reality the savings and that will involve big data, NLP, ML and Neural networks all combined to deliver a richer, smarter and more precise outcome.

AI,  Cloud and gigabit networks also go together, as the speed in which the computations can be done in the cloud and delivered to any device are essential soulmates in the delivery of the data back to the person on the other end. This is where necessary human oversight, by experienced staff comes into play at the very start.

I personally expect to see many other acquisitions and partnerships with AI companies formed by telcos and communications service providers, especially in the UCaaS and Collaboration space as the needed integration can't just be part of the interop like in the old days of VoIP but needs to be woven into the fabric of the business.

8x8, like the other telcos who will follow on quickly with this type of acquisition, will benefit by weaving the AI technology into the core of their platforms. It will be those who innovate swiftly and deliver a superior grade of service, not just features, but actual benefits to their customers and their customers' customers in turn, who win the race.