Microsoft Corp agreed to acquire Parlano, which provides technology to allow companies to create group chat sessions for employees, and add the application to its portfolio of communication offerings.

The world's largest software maker announced the deal on Wednesday and expects the acquisition to close in the fourth quarter of 2007. Microsoft did not disclose financial terms.

Parlano, a Chicago-based company spun off from Swiss bank UBS, has about 50 employees and is backed by Longworth Venture Partners and Oak Investment Partners.

Parlano's MindAlign group chat application started as a dealing room tool to let traders in various locations share market-moving information.

Microsoft said it decided to buy Parlano instead of trying to build a competing application because MindAlign already has a long list of customers running the program, including Deutsche Bank AG and Putnam Investments.

Microsoft plans to offer the group chat application as part of its unified communication offering, which delivers telephone, e-mail, messaging and Web conferencing over Internet networks.

It will add the group chat feature to Microsoft Office Communications Server and Microsoft Office Communicator.