Update: Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), says he was wrong when he suggested that Apple bought speech recognition company Nuance. “I thought I’d read about it but obviously got it all wrong,” he wrote in an email to Reuters. Shares in Nuance reached a 2.5-year high on speculation that a deal was going down between the two companies, based on Wozniak’s comments in a video interview posted on tvdeck.com and YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG). [Video, and original post, are after the jump.]
Is Apple preparing to buy speech recognition company Nuance? Has it bought it already? Steve Wozniak seems to think so. In a video interview posted a few days ago, Apple’s co-founder describes his vision for the iPhone of the future: more memory, more songs, and more “natural.” “I think voice recognition is going to become, more and more, a part of these machines,” he says in the interview with Romil Patel, founder of TVDeck.com. “Apple’s probably thinking the same way. They recently bought the company Nuance.”
The buy could make sense: Apple, which has a $50 billion warchest, has been investing in companies that help extend its smartphone functionality, as it faces increasing competition from the likes of Google/Android, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Symbian.
Buying up one of the bigger voice recognition companies like Nuance – which is currently valued at just over $5 billion and is profitable – would complement that strategy. And it would mean not only that Apple could better integrate the technology, but it might keep competitors from using it, too.
Google’s “Voice Actions” service, which it launched in August, is built on Nuance’s voice recognition engine, and Nuance works with a number of others in the mobile space.)
But at the same time it could have been a confusion on Wozniak’s part: Apple bought “personal assistant” app developer, Siri, in April 2010. While Siri is not a voice recognition company, it does license that technology from Nuance, for users to speak voice commands into the Siri app.
Wozniak was the subject of the viral rumor mill last week, when he supposedly claimed in an interview with De Telegraaf in Holland that Android would be the dominant platform for smartphones. He later said he was misquoted.
When Nuance reported its Q4 earnings yesterday, it made no mentions of acquisitions. The company stated in those earnings that “key mobile customers, new bookings or design wins in the quarter” included Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Apple, AT&T (NYSE: T), Huawei, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), NCMC, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Palm (NSDQ: PALM), Samsung, Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC), Sprint (NYSE: S), Telefonica (NYSE: TEF), T-Mobile and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD). Revenues were at $309.8 million, an increase of nearly 18 percent over the year before, on net income of $2.1 million.
We have reached out to both Apple and Nuance to confirm or deny this report, and will update when we have more information.