Nuance Buys Vlingo To Build A Better Siri-Killer

Brad Chacos

The iPhone 4S may not have been the iPhone 5 that tech pundits were looking for, but that single little S – Siri – has turned the phone business on its ear. Voice capabilities, once relegated to the “neat little distraction” category, are now having buckets full of R&D dollars chucked at them as Apple competitors try to develop a Siri-killer. Today Nuance, the maker of Dragon Naturally Speaking, announced that it is buying Vlingo, maker of, well, the Vlingo voice control app, in a blatant bid to knock off Apple’s sweet talker.

“Inspired by the introduction of services such as Apple’s Siri and our own Dragon Go!, virtually every mobile and consumer electronics company on the planet is looking for ways to integrate natural, conversational voice interactions into their mobile products, applications, and services, ” Nuance SVP Mike Thompson said in the press release announcing the deal. “By acquiring Vlingo, we are able to accelerate the pace of innovation to meet this demand.”

As if that quote didn’t lay things out clearly enough, the press release makes no bones about Nuance’s continued plans to try and muscle in on the world of “intelligent mobile assistants.” Funnily enough, Vlingo and Nuance were suing the hell out of each other in a nasty war over patent disputes before they laid down their litigation arms and agreed to this acquisition. Another funny thing to consider: TechCrunch claims that Nuance’s voice recognition technology is the hidden power behind Siri herself.

If anybody can come up with a true Siri competitor, it’ll probably be a Vlingo-Nuance combo. But do you think they can actually pull it off? Do you even care about "intelligent mobile assistants?"

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