Microsoft just bought the company that built Siri's voice recognition for Apple

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Microsoft purchased Nuance, makers of Dragon speech-to-text tools, for $16 billion

Cortana, Microsoft's digital voice assistant named after that hologram lady from HALO, didn't exactly set the world on fire. Most Windows users I've seen treat it like an annoyance to be avoided, instead of an integral part of the system, as Google's Assistant and Apple's Siri have become. But based on its latest corporate purchase, Microsoft might be taking another stab at voice-powered interaction.

Microsoft announced this morning that it's buying Nuance, the makers of Dragon speech recognition software. It's paying $56 per share, a generous offer that makes it a $16 billion USD deal. Nuance's software forms the backbone of Apple's Siri tool, a crucial part of what's driven the software maker's corporate value higher and higher in recent years. Nuance and Microsoft have cooperated in the past on a number of B2B tools, so tying the knot in this relationship isn't a huge surprise.

Doubling down on Cortana doesn't seem like the immediate play here—the company killed the mobile version just a week ago. It might be more likely that Microsoft wants to sharpen its speech-to-text options across its entire stable of products: Windows, Office, Xbox. Microsoft's announcement says that it wants to build on Nuance's AI expertise and "deliver next-generation customer engagement and security solutions." Building parts of the Dragon system into Microsoft Word, on multiple platforms, would be an easy win, and continuing to license the software to Apple would be a lucrative get all on its own.
 

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As for predictions regarding Microsoft's big-picture goal with the acquisition of Nuance, both Pessin and McQuire saw a variety of benefits to the deal.

"I can see [Microsoft] using this kind of NLP technology across many of their products, including Office and Teams, perhaps even a follow-up to Cortana," Pessin posited.

McQuire's take was a bit different: "The long game is acquiring health data and making Azure fit for purpose for the health industry. It is also having a set of proprietary AI solutions and algorithms for a range of healthcare needs that will differentiate Microsoft in the long run. I expect we will see a similar strategy unfold in other verticals such as finance, for example."