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Microsoft is buying a Wand to add new magic to Cortana and its bots

A Google veteran heads to Redmond.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Justin Sullivan / Getty

Fresh off its gigantic LinkedIn acquisition, Microsoft is on a roll: The company announced on Thursday it is scooping up Wand Labs, a three-year-old mobile startup, to improve its search and personal assistant products.

Microsoft didn't disclose financial information, but it’s probably a deal for talent and tech. Wand had raised just over $2.6 million in a seed round; its CEO, Vishal Sharma, spent seven years at Google including a stint on Now, its mobile personal assistant.

At Microsoft, he’ll be working on the software giant’s intelligence products, which are shifting away from competing with Google on search to a big focus on conversational AI tools, or bots.

Adding more capabilities and smarts into conversational threads has been the big theme this year from Microsoft as well as Google and Facebook, all of which highlighted the opportunity at recent developer conferences.

Here’s a description of Wand’s messaging tech from a Backchannel story last year:

It’s kind of an uber-app, a hub designed to let you can access the powers and data in your personal mobile universe — kind of a browser of the phone. The name Wand implies that you’ll use the product like a sorcerer’s baton. The biggest magic will come when you use Wand to share the powers of your apps with friends and contacts; you can grant them access to the apps and even the services you subscribe to, even if they don’t have those apps or services on their own devices.

Sharma left Google to start the company, he told the publication, because of his frustrations with mobile’s inability to facilitate real-world interactions easily. “The wall on your iPhone and Android looks like MS Windows from years ago,” he said.

Welcome to Microsoft, Vishal!

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