Microsoft acquires natural language technology company Powerset

With the goal of taking its Live Search property to the “next level,” Microsoft has acquired the natural language technology company Powerset for an undisclosed amount.

“The company clearly sees that natural language technologies will provide benefits across the Internet,” said an unnamed spokesperson from Microsoft. “As Microsoft’s efforts in this space evolve, various Web communities can expect to hear more from them.”

The company spokesperson directed further press inquiries to official corporate blogs.

“Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have in Microsoft Research,” wrote Satya Nadella, Microsoft SVP, search, portal and advertising in a blog post yesterday.

According to Nadella, Powerset will join the company’s “core search relevance team.” Powerset, founded in 2005, will keep its San Francisco office, he wrote.

Nadella said Microsoft anticipates that Powerset’s technology will help it better understand the intent and meaning behind users’ searches as well as content on Web pages. For example, Nadella added, search engines do not understand that the word “cancer” can refer to a disease or a horoscope depending on the context used.

In a blog post on Powerset’s Web site, Mark Johnson, a company employee, wrote,Microsoft shares our goal to improve search through deeper analysis of queries and documents, and understands that our technology and expertise will play a key role in the evolution of search.” In May, Powerset launched its first beta product, a Wikipedia search engine that allows users to search using conversational language.

Powerset could not be reached for comment before press time.

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