Yesterday it was reported that Microsoft has signed a letter of intent to buy Israel-based text analysis startup Equivio Ltd in a deal that could be worth around $200 million however to-date neither Equivio nor Microsoft has commented on this report.

Equivio develops text analysis software that can group together relevant texts from large amounts of documents, including emails and other organizational social and collaboration networks, using machine learning algorithms. The technology is already in use by organizations providing ediscovery and litigation support services to law firms and corporate legal departments, with the company listing the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, KPMG and Deloitte as users of its software.

Equivio has been described by one litigation support services provider as “the de-facto industry standard for near-duplicate identification… Equivio’s advanced near-duplicate detection process significantly reduces the time and cost associated with preliminary document review.” Research suggests that 70-80% of electronic documents are either duplicates or near-duplicates.

COMMENT: Of course the deal could easily fall through but why would Microsoft want to buy Equivio, given that Redmond tends to go for strategic acquisitions rather than point-solutions in niche markets? The best guess is that Equivio would be used to broaden the reach of Microsoft’s FAST enterprise search and SharePoint content management platforms.