Samsung could buy Nuance, the company behind Swype and Siri’s voice recognition

June 17, 2014
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Nuance Communications reportedly held acquisition talks with Samsung earlier this year.

Nuance is one of the biggest players in speech recognition technology; the Massachusetts-based company’s voice recognition software underpins Samsung’s S Voice assistant, as well as Apple’s Siri. Other clients of the company include automakers like Daimler, and smart TV manufacturers like Panasonic.

According to people familiar with the matter cited by the Wall Street Journal, Nuance engaged in talks about a possible sale to Samsung and a group of private-equity firms. The talks happened “recently,” but their current status is unknown.

Nuance began life as an offshoot of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute with ties with Stanford University. With a current market cap of around $5.5 billion, the company is a clear leader in speech recognition technology, but its portfolio of technologies extends into related fields such as OCR software, virtual assistance, and touchscreen input technologies. In 2011, Nuance bought Swype, maker of one of the first original gesture-based keyboard apps for Android.

Buying Nuance would give Samsung an edge in the crucial field of virtual assistance technology, with applications in smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, wearables, autos, and smart homes. The move would give Samsung direct control over a key feature of modern smart devices, as well as access to a trove of patents related to voice recognition and predictive text input. Buying Nuance would also contribute to Samsung’s stated goal to improve and expand its software and services and to create a platform of its own that doesn’t depend on Google.

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