Microsoft today announced it has acquired text analysis software startup Equivio, though financial details of the deal were not disclosed. The company says it plans to integrate the machine learning technology into Office 365 “in the months ahead.”
While Office 365 offers e-discovery and information governance capabilities, Equivio develops machine learning technologies for both, meaning an integration is expected to make them “even more intelligent and easy to use.” Microsoft says the move is in line with helping its customers tackle “the legal and compliance challenges inherent in managing large quantities of email and documents.”
In other words, Microsoft wants to help businesses and governments sift through the enormous amount of data they generate every day, helping them figure out what is relevant in legal and compliance matters. Finding relevant documents is becoming more costly and time-consuming as the growth of data outpaces peoples’ ability to manually process it.
Equivio uses machine learning to let users explore large, unstructured sets of data. The startup’s technology leverages advanced text analytics to perform multi-dimensional analyses of data collections, intelligently sort documents into themes, group near-duplicates, and isolate unique data.
Users effectively train the system to identify documents relevant to a particular subject, such as a legal case or an investigation. While this is an iterative process, it is more accurate and cost-effective over the long term, at least when compared with keyword searches and manual review.
On its homepage, Equivio offered the following statement:
When we launched Equivio, we had a vision to deliver innovative text analysis software to the legal market. It’s been an amazing ride.
Along the way, our machine-learning technology has transformed the business process of e-discovery. By joining Microsoft, we will now have the opportunity to help many more customers layer these technologies into their standard operational and business practices.
Microsoft’s reach and scale is phenomenal and it’s just incredible to be part of it! Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey.
Microsoft says Equivio’s technology has achieved “broad acceptance in the legal community as a valuable e-discovery tool.” The startup’s customers include U.S. federal agencies as well as “hundreds” of law firms, corporations, and other organizations.
Back in October, The Wall Street Journal first reported the possibility of a deal for an estimated $200 million. Other subsequent reports have also put the price tag in the $150 million to $200 million range, though Microsoft confirmed with VentureBeat it is not disclosing the final number.