When Microsoft announced last week that it was acquiring chat bot maker Colloquis to create Windows Live Agents and Service Agents, it seemed to come out of the blue, but a reader informs me that Microsoft has a history with the company under it’s former name of Conversagent which had just been changed in July.
In particular, Conversagent provided a little known IM answer bot for Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia called Encarta Instant Answers:
Microsoft has released a brand new MSN Messenger bot called ‘Encarta® Instant Answers’!
This MSN chat bot, as the name suggests, provides answers to your questions from Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia through MSN Messenger. This can be extremely useful for quick fact finding or some ‘Instant’ homework help!
Simply add the bot to your MSN Messenger contact list, say ‘hello’ to it and follow the prompts from the conversation.
The email address to add in MSN Messenger for this bot is firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a minor fad at the end of last year with various weblogs reproducing bot conversations (e.g. here) and it currently works in Windows Live Messenger as well.
Beyond the amusement factor, Encarta Instant Answers was also an example of the kind of features available for MSN Messenger bots developed with the Buddyscript SDK that Colloquis/Conversagent was offering for free in conjunction with Microsoft:
In partnership with Microsoft, Colloquis is making available a free license to the Colloquis SDK for the development of integrated BOT and Activity applications on the MSN Messenger platform.
Looking to the future, another aspect in the deal was undoubtedly that Colloquis holds a patent 20060136298 titled Methods and apparatus for contextual advertisements in an online conversation thread. Not only snappy patter, but ads too!
Todd Bishop spelunks Microsoft’s financial filings and discovers where the 10,000 new employees went and that Microsoft’s legal payouts declined to $1.3 billion.
MySpace driving more retail traffic than MSN search according to Hitwise.
MSN Chat to close, apparently killed by instant messaging.
Depending on who is counting, MSNBC.com still gets 3 to 4 times the traffic of CBSnews.com or ABCnews.com. As always, note that MSNBC.com is still equally owned by Microsoft and NBC and is separate from MSNBC TV which Microsoft largely divested in December.
Windows Desktop Search 3.0 Beta 2 released.
Microsoft Re-Aligns U.S. Financial Services Group into 3 separate groups targeting insurance, capital markets, and banking.
Indian state moves to bar Microsoft from schools. The Communists are back in power in Kerala and have banned the sale and manufacture of Coke and Pepsi too. Somehow being the vanguard of the proletariat lacks the verve of the good old days.
Some Microsoft related news items from this week that didn’t find a post of their own.
What does Apple have up their sleeve for the iPod? And more European consumer groups are complaining about the iTunes/iPod interlock. What until they see Zune.
Microsoft has revised the Office 2007 user interface because of beta tester complaints. Among other things, the (unique but space consuming) “ribbon” is now collapsible. (Update: Jensen Harris says the ribbon always could be minimized, now the option is just more visible.) Speaking of Office, Microsoft has now come out on top in Massachusetts because of accessibility concerns – Massachusetts OpenDocument plan will use Office plug-in.
Windows servers also continued to show strength, with 3.1 percent growth in revenues, and 11 percent growth in shipments year over year. Servers based on the operating system made up 34.2 percent of quarterly revenue, as opposed to Unix’s 35 percent share, a 1.6 percent decline in revenues and 1.8 percent drop in unit shipments.
It turns out Microsoft’s indefinite postponement of security bulletin MS06-042 only lasted a day. The Redmond company on Thursday released an updated version of the patch that corrects a security vulnerability in IE 6.0 SP1.
The original patch contained a deployment issue, and was later discovered to include another security vulnerability.
The 2007 Games Convention was held in Leipzig, Germany this week and Microsoft put on a big show. I mentioned some of the news separately, but in addition:
Anti-monopoly push by China may hit Microsoft. Microsoft runs that risk everywhere.
MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger users in the UK will soon have a “report abuse” button to report sexual predators to the police. Also Microsoft is starting a beta for Windows Live Messenger 8.1.
Sometimes the promises in grand corporate alliance announcements actually do come true. Last October, Microsoft and Yahoo promised interoperability of their instant messaging services in 2Q2006 and it arrived today in beta only a little bit late:
Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp. today will begin limited public beta testing of interoperability between their instant messaging (IM) services that enable users of Windows Live® Messenger, the next generation of MSN® Messenger, and Yahoo!® Messenger with Voice to connect with each other. This interoperability — the first of its kind between two distinct, global consumer IM providers — will form the world’s largest consumer IM community, approaching 350 million accounts.
Consumers worldwide from Microsoft and Yahoo! will be able to take advantage of IM interoperability and join the limited public beta program. They will be among the first to exchange instant messages across the free services as well as see their friends’ online presence, view personal status messages, share select emoticons, view offline messages and add new contacts from either service at no cost. Yahoo! and Microsoft plan to make the interoperability between their respective IM services broadly available to consumers in the coming months.