As WWDC and the unveiling of iOS 5 approaches, we’re all wondering what Apple may or may not bring to its devices with the next major iOS release. One thing that could be introduced is speech recognition, courtesy of Nuance Communications – the company behind the Dragon Dictation applications for the iPhone and iPad.
According to a TechCrunch report that cites “multiple sources,” Apple has been negotiating a deal with Nuance which could see them integrate the company’s speech recognition technology into the iOS platform. While negotiations could have potentially been about an Apple takeover of Nuance, TechCrunch believes that at this point that’s unlikely.
With $60 billion in the bank, there’s no question that Apple has the money for a Nuance takeover, but it seems Nuance drives a very hard bargain. The company’s CEO, Paul Ricci, can apparently be as hard to negotiate with as Steve Jobs himself, and the two are yet to agree on a deal to keep Siri’s services alive with Nuance technology.
Siri – a company that Apple acquired back in April 2010 – relies heavily on Nuance technology to drive its personal assistant software. Previous rumors have speculated that Siri technology could be a big part of iOS 5, but it couldn’t do that without Nuance on-board. Unless, of course, Apple goes with another option, but Nuance is considered to be the best there is.
Apple could build the technology themselves in-house, but TechCrunch believes this isn’t currently a viable option:
The other option is for Apple to build the technology themselves. And some recent job postings suggest they may be thinking about that. But to get to where Nuance is today it would take a long, long time. Perhaps more importantly, it’s well known in the industry that Nuance holds key patents for their technology and is very aggressive in protecting them. Even Apple would have a hard time dancing around this if they did go it alone.
While an acquisition certainly won’t be ruled out at this point, it seems more likely that Apple and Nuance will agree on a licensing deal that will provide Apple with the technology it needs to build the services it wants into iOS at a significantly lower cost; whilst having the time to put together its own team of developers and create its own technology to take over from Nuance in the future.
Is speech recognition a feature you’d like to see introduced with iOS 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.