Microsoft has purchased software vendor Colloquis and is offering the company\u2019s technology as a new Windows Live hosted service that lets businesses use digital language-processing to interact with customers online. Colloquis\u2019 technology uses natural-language processing to give companies a way to do automated customer service online through chat without the need for a human customer-service agent. Microsoft completed the purchase Thursday, the same day it renamed the Colloquis technology Windows Live Service Agents and began selling it as a hosted service under the Windows Live brand. This software will also be integrated into Microsoft\u2019s call-center agent software, Customer Care Framework, said Clinton Cickey, group product manager for Microsoft. That software currently requires interaction with a customer-service agent, but eventually it will let companies do online chat with customers without a human, he said.Cickey characterized the deal as an extension of Microsoft\u2019s hosted services strategy, which the company introduced last November under the Windows Live brand. Microsoft has been busy building a portfolio of Web-based and hosted services to compete with companies such as Google and Yahoo for its share of Web-based advertising revenue and other financial opportunities driven by the popularity of the Internet.Colloquis\u2019 36 employees will remain at the company\u2019s New York and Sunnyvale, Calif., locations, said Michael O\u2019Hara, a Microsoft general manager.Microsoft eventually will use speech-recognition technology to extend what it has acquired from Colloquis to enhance how businesses do automated customer service, he said."We want to drive it beyond text to look at speech and other things that have to do with the understanding of conversational language [through technology]," O\u2019Hara said.With its purchase of Colloquis, Microsoft also acquires about 25 customers that are currently using the language-processing technology. They include Cingular Wireless, Comcast, Cox Communications, Panasonic of North America, Time Warner Cable and Vonage Holdings. By Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service (New York Bureau)Related Links:\n\nMicrosoft Looking Through Windows\n\nMicrosoft Germany CEO Resigns Over Issues With HQThis article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page. For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.