Microsoft Acquiring Intentional Software in Productivity Push

Founded by a former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi, Intentional Software's tech may end up giving Office 365 a futuristic makeover.

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Microsoft today announced it is acquiring Intentional Software, a Bellevue, Wash. group productivity specialist for a price that wasn't undisclosed . The companies expect the deal to close after it receives the necessary regulatory approvals.

Intentional Software was founded in 2002 by Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive who lead the development of key Office applications, including Word and Excel. Several years ago, he made news for his jaunts to the International Space Station, becoming the first "space tourist" to visit the orbital station twice at the cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Back on Earth, Simonyi and his group have been working with Microsoft for the past two years, exploring potential synergies between their respective productivity platforms, he said in an April 18 announcement. Today's deal was a consequence of those discussions.

Branching out from its intentional programming roots, Intentional Software turned its attention to re-imagining productivity for workers in information-rich environments, enabling them to share and interact with business data using a variety of devices and input methods.

"The Intentional platform can represent domain specific information both at the meta-level (as schemas) and at the content level (as data or rules)," explained Simonyi in his announcement. "It has patterns for distributed interactive documents and for views for a universal surface. When combined with the existing Microsoft technologies and the future technologies that are under development there, the synergies will bring many futuristic scenarios to life."

Simonyi envisions seamless data movement and interactivity between digital whiteboards, touch-enabled mobile devices and other "surfaces"—an oblique reference to the Microsoft Surface line of Windows hardware. In practice, the concept will enable users to work within the documents themselves rather than starting up an app to edit or append a file.

The acquisition hints at a futuristic makeover for the Office 365 productivity software and services ecosystem.

"Intentional Software's technology and talent will enhance our existing capabilities and strengthen our ability to add new tools and services to Microsoft's robust productivity offering," commented Rajesh Jha, executive vice president of the Office Product Group at Microsoft, in a blog post. "We're excited about the company's work on productivity applications, especially given our focus of putting people at the center of experiences and our continued effort to re-imagine collaboration."

Microsoft has been scooping up productivity software companies at a brisk pace for the past several years.

In late 2014, the company acquired the mobile email startup behind the popular Acompli app. Months later, Microsoft acquired Sunrise Atelier, makers of the Sunrise calendar app. Both now live on in the email and calendar functionality found in Outlook mobile apps for iOS and Android. In June 2015, Microsoft bought Wunderlist, enabling Outlook users to create to-do lists from their emails.

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 Internet.com network of...