The Microsoft-Nuance Deal: A new push for voice technology?

Microsoft’s decision to acquire speech-recognition firm Nuance Communications for $19.7 billion, the company’s biggest purchase since forking out $26 billion for LinkedIn, could provide a real boost for voice technology, analysts said.

“There are lots of companies, and start-ups, doing voice recognition, but Nuance has been a leader in this area for years,” said Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst for COMMfusion.” It has the technology, partnerships, customers, and expertise needed to further succeed and grow.”

Voice-recognition as a tool has been gaining momentum in recent years, so staking a claim in the AI and speech technology markets makes sense — especially since rivals such as Google, Amazon and Apple have in many ways overshadowed Microsoft’s erfforts. (Nuance’s software formed the basis for Apple’s Siri voice assistant before Apple switched to an in-house version.)

Microsoft, in a statement touting the deal on Monday, pointed to Nuance’s use of “cloud-based ambient clinical intelligence” in the healthcare industry. And Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stressed that point in a later webcast to talk about the purchase. 

“AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application,” Nadella said. “Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance.”

The deal gives Microsoft wide-ranging access to the healthcare sector, as Nuance capabilities are already used by roughly 90% of US. hospitals, according to a Nuance financial statement from February. The move is expected to underpin Microsoft’s continued efforts to provide industry-specific cloud offerings to companies still adjusting to the disruption and opportunities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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