Nuance Communications, the software maker for speech-recognition such as Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, is reportedly discussing with Samsung Electronics and other interested firms for a possible acquisition or sale of the company, according to unnamed sources of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
WSJ’s sources say the talks started early this year, but they did not say if a deal has been reached already.
Nuance, which has its base in Burlington, Massachusetts, creates voice-powered technology that is often used in televisions, mobile handsets and GPS navigation devices. The most popular voice product of which is Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.
Nuance’s technologies that provide voice and language are also in use at some handsets, tablets and televisions of Samsung, and will soon be used in its wearable devices in the future. Other customers are Nintendo Co., Panasonic Corp. and Daimler AG DAI.XE.
Prior to the acquisition talks, the company is said to have a market capitalization of around $5.5 billion. Carl Icahn, the activist investor, is its biggest shareholder with about 19 percent ownership of Nuance as of March 31. Two people on Nuance’s board represent him.
Critics, however, say that the presence of activists in the company can intensify the odds of the acquisition deal whether it be the entire company, a part of it or simply stock buyback. For instance is the case of Lawson Software that was sold to an affiliate of the Golden Gate Capital and Infor, after Icahn became the biggest shareholder in the company.
Nuance is reported to have $1.86 billion in income during last fiscal year. The largest business comes from the health-care unit that develops software that are designed to digitize records of patients, while the second-biggest segment is on mobile focusing on cars, mobile phones, and other related devices.
Apple did not join in the talks, but some of the industry’s investors and watchers suggested that Apple should be doing so to cut out its competitors. In fact, some investors in the past year speculated that Apple would acquire Nuance for around $7 billion.
Nuance’s product only provides the capability of Siri and other voice-driven services to interpret the voice of the user and does not handle the artificial intelligence of the virtual assistant. Research says the company is among those that can give Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana a good competition in the now budding market for digital assistants.
Gathered researches show that Nuance was a spinoff of the SRI company in 1994, a combination of a number of varied companies. A company named Visioneer bought ScanSoft in 1999 before merging it in 2005 with Nuance, officially taking the latter’s business name. It remains best known for its development of intelligent assistant software and its Dragon voice recognition software. Makers of personal computers, such as Dell, have been expressing their plans of including the Dragon software to upcoming PC unit.