Apple in Discussions with Nuance to Broaden Speech Control on iPhone

As a long-time Android user I can tell you two specific areas where Android beats the iPhone's otherwise superior user experience hands down: speech and navigation. All text fields on Android devices are speech-enabled, including email, SMS and the search box on any site.

The iPhone offers "voice control commands" that allow users to initiate a call or play music with speech. But the breadth of what you can do on the iPhone with voice is much more narrow. There is of course voice search on the Google and Bing apps, but that has to do with Google and Microsoft's own technology and nothing to do with Apple.

This morning several outlets are reporting that there's some sort of new or renewed discussion going on between Apple and leading speech firm Nuance. Nuance provided the front-end speech capability to Siri, which Apple acquired almost exactly a year ago. Nuance also offers speech-powered apps (e.g., Dragon Search) for the iPhone and has an excellent speech-enabled keyboard in FlexT9 for Android.

One can safely assume that Apple clearly understands a lack of broad "speech enablement" is a competitive weakness for the iPhone. This argues that Apple is moving to fix that in a deal with Nuance.

Some have speculated that this deal would be an outright acquisition (and there was a rumor last year to that effect). However Apple doesn't need to acquire Nuance to get the benefit of its technology. Apple probably also doesn't have to worry that Google or Microsoft would buy Nuance, because they already have major speech assets. Any acquisition price would perhaps be prohibitively high (more than $6 billion) and include an enterprise business that is generally unrelated to anything else Apple is doing. So some sort of speech licensing deal with Nuance is more probable.

The rest of this post is at Search Engine Land.