Nuance's Acquisitions Cement Its Position in Voicemail to Text, Dictation

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In late December, Nuance Communications acquired voice-to-text services provider SpinVox for an estimated $102 million. 

Then in mid-February, the company acquired MacSpeech, the leading provider of speech recognition solutions for Apple’s Macintosh computers, for an undisclosed amount.

The MacSpeech acquisition extends Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking family of products to new audiences and devices, most notably the growing community of Mac users. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the underlying technology in MacSpeech Dictate, MacSpeech’s flagship dictation product. “MacSpeech’s knowledge of the Mac  platform and its deep understanding of Mac users, coupled with our decades-long experience with speech recognition and the popular Dragon brand, will allow us to provide the best dictation technology in a solution that is 100 percent Mac,” said Peter Mahoney, Nuance’s senior vice president and general manager of the Dragon product line, in a statement.

As a result of the SpinVox deal, Nuance expands its voicemail-to-text services to telecommunications companies across five continents; Nuance reportedly has been looking to grow its voice-to-text business around the globe for some time.

According to John Pollard, vice president of voice-to-text services at Nuance, the deal made sense given the company’s strategy of acceleration during the past few years in the voice-to-text space. “When we started to look at it, it was very clear,” Pollard says. “SpinVox is operating on five continents, with many tier-one operators in production across many millions of customers, and that experience is really, in this space, unparalleled.”

As part of this strategy of acceleration, Nuance also acquired Jott—a company Pollard founded—in July. However, according to Ryan Joe, an associate analyst at Ovum, there is a key difference between the Jott and SpinVox deals.  

“When Nuance purchased Jott, it acquired a platform that integrates speech-to-text technology with Web services,” he says. “Nuance also inherited a good, popular service inhibited by limited scalability—an area that Nuance’s technological background, carrier relationships, and enterprise relationships could rectify. In contrast, the benefit for Nuance in its most recent acquisition is SpinVox’s global client base and its in-house knowledge and expertise of country-by-country differences in tariff structures, voicemail patterns, and security-related legislation.”

And while the SpinVox acquisition eliminates one of Nuance’s competitors in the voice-to-text market, the company is not completely unrivaled, according to Joe. He identified Simul-Scribe, Google, and Ribbit as serious players in the space, though each has a very different go-to-market strategy than Nuance.

With the acquisition of SpinVox, Nuance says it intends to expand its operations and accelerate growth in the areas of service, quality, global reach, and innovation.  

According to a statement from Nuance, “the combination of SpinVox’s global infrastructure with Nuance’s speech recognition technology will provide robust, carrier-grade voice-to-text services with ISO security certification and highly scaled production systems that handle millions of messages per day.”

Additionally, the acquisition will give Nuance a customer list that includes carriers in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia, as well as language support in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Portuguese.  

Pollard says response to the deal from SpinVox customers has been very positive. “They know Nuance,” he says. “They know Nuance is a big, diversified company. The stability and technical depth is a great thing for them.” 

As for the MacSpeech products, Mahoney said “nothing will change in the near term,” as both companies work together on branding and product integration.

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