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Microsoft is merging its interactive voice-response technology into 24/7 Inc. and taking an equity stake in the Silicon Valley company.

The deal, announced this morning, includes an R&D partnership between the companies and a patent licensing agreement that gives 24/7 broader access to Microsoft’s speech technologies. An undisclosed number of Microsoft employees will shift to 24/7, along with related speech technology and customers.

The companies aren’t disclosing the size of the equity stake, but the board of Sequoia Capital-backed 24/7 won’t be changing as a result of the deal.

24/7 says it will use the assets to offer companies a smarter form of self-service calling, bridging the worlds of online and phone-based customer service. For example, someone receiving an automated call from a bank about suspicious account activity would be able to simultaneously receive and review transactions on a smartphone, and interact with the computer via voice to put a stop on purchases or cancel a card.

Microsoft and 24/7 say they have agreed to a shared roadmap for future products and services in this area.

The interactive self-service technologies trace their roots back to Microsoft’s acquisition of TellMe. Microsoft says it will continue to develop its speech technology under the TellMe brand for use in products including Windows Phone, Bing and Xbox Live.

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