Update: Nuance acquires parts of IBM's speech technology

Nuance recently announced that it will be purchasing some of IBM's speech technology. While the addition of IBM's source code will enable Nuance to make improvements to its embedded and network-based speech recognition technology, the acquisition and ensuing relationship has prompted questions over Nuance's technology and IBM's motives.

Nuance recently announced that it has acquired parts of IBM's speech recognition technology; namely, the source code from IBM's research and development team, which will enhance its speech capabilities in the areas of network-based and embedded text-to-speech (TTS), and advanced speech recognition (ASR). Nuance intends to combine the source code with its own over the next two years to improve the performance of its speech recognition engine.

Despite initial speculation that IBM will no longer compete in this market, the company will continue to develop its speech capabilities independently in these areas. It has sold Nuance a past release of its code for its embedded ViaVoice software and its WebSphere Voice Server middleware. The key motive for IBM in making this transaction is to gain some return on investment for its speech recognition technology, which is not unusual as it regularly sells patent licenses to other vendors.

The purchase of IBM's technology reinforces Nuance's aims to develop leading speech technology. However, it has also led to speculation that IBM's technology was in fact superior to Nuance's; if true, Nuance's decision to acquire this technology was a prudent one.