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What's behind two massive high-tech acquisitions: a Taiwan entrepreneur's view

Recent corporate acquisitions by Microsoft and Salesforce.com are aimed at making more use of artificial intelligence technology, says a Taiwanese entrepreneur who follows the trend.

Customer relationship management software developer Salesforce.com’s acquisition of enterprise software firm Quip will let it expand client services and pick up new talent, according to conventional analyst views.

Experts vary on why Microsoft took over social media service LinkedIn in June.

Now there's another view on both deals:

"I believe these leading enterprises are deploying market strategies in artificial intelligence (AI)," Hardware Trek (HWtrek) CEO Lucas Wang wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Wang heads a Taiwan-based online platform for connecting global hardware enthusiasts. HWtrek has set up 10,800 global projects to develop tech hardware.

DISSECTING THE ACQUISITIONS

Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for US$2.62 billion to find professional clients for its new cloud computing software Office 360 and Dynamics software for business people, Wang says.

The buyout gives Microsoft a windfall of user data, he added.

LinkedIn's large database can also become a source of data for AI processes, the local CEO believes.

Microsoft has publicly outlined its interest in developing AI. For one thing, it is investing in predictive features to make a smarter talking digital assistant, a tool named Cortana, Computerworld UK reported.

Salesforce.com acquired Quip for US$750 million in August mostly for help in developing services for corporate software clients.

The same buyer had also bid for LinkedIn, and Salesforce.com CEO Maarc Bienoff has been quoted saying his company would have offered a higher price than Microsoft if LinkedIn had been more patient.

Like Microsoft, Salesforce.com wants access to AI technologies.

"AI is technology that Salesforce is incredibly interested in," CTO Adams Evans has been quoted saying. "At Salesforce we have moved from systems of record to systems of engagement and now we are moving towards systems of intelligence."

The company has developed machines with learning and predictive capabilities such as its CRM platform SalesforceIQ and its Service Cloud Intelligence Engine.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE

The acquisitions of both Microsoft and Salesforce.com point to an emerging market sector, as AI technology matures and shifts from robotics to large-scale enterprise services, Wang said.

The value of AI systems for enterprises reached an estimated US$203 million in 2015, on the way to US$11.1 billion by 2024, Siemens has forecast.

Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa stirred other software companies to consider development of their own talking personal assistants, though previously these tools were not considered uses of AI.

Now the view is that AI can raise efficiency for companies with complex, collaborative projects. Normally a staff person coordinates those jobs through emails, phone calls, meetings and updates to shared documents.

Artificial intelligence stands now to replace those staff people.

Developers of enterprise software are working on how to use AI for project coordination, Wang said.

To make the software work, enterprise users must formulate related business protocol and a critical mass of useful data, Wang said.