The activity in the voice technologies space continues to heat up, making it loud and clear that voice, particularly natural language speech, is fast becoming an increasingly important user-interface mode.
Tech Crunch reported last week that Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) acquired True Knowledge, a British company that developed a personal assistant app for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iOS and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android called “Evi” using its internally developed natural language search technology plus licensed speech recognition technology from Nuance Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:NUAN). Nuance Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:NUAN) is the company involved in helping Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) develop Siri.
Nuance announced last week its collaboration with AutoNavi Holdings Ltd (ADR) (NASDAQ:AMAP), a provider of digital maps and navigation and location-based solutions, to develop intuitive voice-enabled navigational products for the Chinese market.
Nuance also made news earlier in April when investor-activist Carl Icahn acquired a 9.3% stake in the company.
What’s up? Let’s look at the possibilities and landscape…
Amazon’s got two new gals: Evi and Ivona*
Evi isn’t Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s only new voice gal acquisition. In January, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced it was acquiring Ivona Software, the Polish text-to-speech company that provides the Voice Guide, Text-to-Speech, and Explore by Touch functions on Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s Kindle Fire tablets. The news got little fanfare, likely because Amazon supply-chain acquisitions are nothing new; perhaps also because “the big Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) drop” was dominating tech stock news.
At that time, it seemed likely the acquisition was more significant than Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) just wanting greater control over products currently used in its Kindle Fire. Now with the Evi news, there’s little doubt. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s plans could include:
1. Entering the smartphone market, dominated by Android-powered phones and the iPhone, which together have about a 90% share of the U.S. market.
2. Beefing up functions on its Kindle Fire to compete in the more upscale market, dominated by Apple’s iPad. (Amazon’s M.O. is a razor/razor blades strategy, so selling a pricey device, AKA “razor,” isn’t likely.)
3. Beefing up its cloud offerings by making Ivona’s portfolio of voices and languages available to enterprise customers.
This one falls into a couple categories: It could also offer a speech recognition API for developers to use in their apps for the Kindle Fire and future Amazon devices.