How to Obtain Your Dragon

Is Nuance Neutrality in Danger?


This could just be a Monday-afternoon market rumour: Samsung is said to be holding acquisition talks with Nuance Communications, the company that owns input technologies such as T9, Swype, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. Nuance’s speech recognition talent is of particular interest to hardware makers of all sorts as voice input is increasingly used to either complement touch interfaces or replace them altogether. Voice input is now used in cars, call centres, computers and games consoles.

Nuance buyout stories do tend to surface on a near-annual basis, with previous gossip mentioning Apple as a potential bidder for the company. Apple depends on Nuance for the voice recognition layer of its Siri software, and given Apple’s track record of acquiring technology suppliers when tight integration is required, the rumour is not without merit.

Likewise, Samsung’s increasing use of voice input across its range of products gives credence to at least a closer relationship with Nuance. As voice input becomes a common feature in smart home products, Samsung’s clout as the world’s largest consumer electronics company could drive impressive implementations of voice control from room to room, including interesting uses of voice biometrics. Speech interfaces are becoming more and more important in wearables and mobile platforms, too.

Any acquisition of Massachusetts-based Nuance would have its hurdles: the company has a market capitalisation of about $6 billion, and a deal could face significant scrutiny by regulatory and security bodies. But given how deeply the company is embedded in several industries, Nuance customers should take the time to consider the potential ramifications of such a buyout and prepare to raise their voices.