October 2007 Early Indications II: Ten big technology-related busts in the past ten years

Ever since at least 1997, Bill Gates has been predicting that speech recognition will be an integral aspect of the PC experience. In his 5-to-10-year timeframe, it never happened, but not for lack of trying: Dragon Systems, headquartered in the U.S., was losing money selling speech recognition software before it was bought by Belgian competitor Lernout & Hauspie in the spring of 2000, just after L&H paid $1 billion for Dictaphone. The Dragon founders, however, had the misfortune of watching their company go into reorganization after accounting irregularities made the L&H stock worthless.

ScanSoft, which made optical character recognition products, bought the assets, but even now, neither Nuance (as ScanSoft renamed itself) nor Microsoft has made speech interfaces work for general-purpose computing. In vertical domains, however, speech interfaces -- particularly telephonic customer service and medical transcription -- are working well.