Mergers, Alliances and Acquisitions: Mergers Shape Speech Industry

Just as the banking world has seen huge mergers, the speech industry has seen new partnerships, mergers and acquisitions which promise to shape the for years to come.

Two of the most significant deals involved Dallas-based Voice Control Systems. VCS announced a strategic alliance with IBM which will clearly accelerate the adoption of speech-driven telephony solutions. VCS also acquired speech pioneer PureSpeech, in a move that VCS says will create the first speech recognition "supermarket."

Details on those and other deals to follow:

VCS Signs Pact with IBM, Acquires Pure Speech

IBM and VCS announced that they have formed a strategic alliance to provide improved automated customer service over the telephone. VCS will deliver speech recognition technology for telephony applications to interactive voice response (IVR) and messaging/voice mail vendors. IBM will provide business partners and developers large vocabulary speech engines and tools, based on its continuous speech recognition software, ViaVoice.

Through this agreement, business partners and developers will also have access to the speech engines currently available in VCS SpeechWave(tm) software, which delivers continuous digit and medium vocabulary phonetic speech recognition.

"With years of expertise in speech technology and the retail success of our ViaVoice products, IBM is moving forward to bring the power of speech recognition technology to the enterprise," said W.S. (Ozzie) Osborne, general manager of IBM Speech Systems. "Teaming with VCS enables us to speed the proliferation of the most innovative speech-driven telephony solutions in businesses around the globe."

"This partnership will define the market standard for speech-based telephony solutions and increase deployment in the marketplace," said Peter Foster, president and CEO of VCS.

Also, VCS announced it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Pure-Speech. The transaction is valued at more than $14 million and will create a complete set of speech recognition offerings for telecommunications applications as well as the world's largest supplier of speech recognition enabled auto attendants.

VCS plans to add PureSpeech's large vocabulary speech recognition engine to its SpeechWave(tm) product line.

"PureSpeech's speech applications and distributors expand VCS' coverage in the telephony market and nicely complement VCS' traditional applications of IVR, wireless voice dialing and voice messaging," said Foster.

For more information, on IBM, VCS and PureSpeech, visit these web sites: http://www.ibm.com/viavoice; http://www.voicecontrol.com and http://www.speech.com.

Aspect to Acquire Voicetek

Aspect Telecommunications announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Voicetek Corporation, for approximately $71 million.

Voicetek's Generations product line has established a leadership position in the IVR segment of the call center market, in part by providing highly scaleable and robust telephony capabilities such as natural language speech recognition and text-to-speech.

"This acquisition positions Aspect to take advantage of the emerging market for intelligent network-based services and is an important step in achieving Aspect's goal of becoming the leading provider of integrated call center solutions," said Dennis Haar, Aspect's president and chief operating officer.

For more information, contact Voicetek at www.voicetek.com or Aspect at www.aspect.com.

Telex, EV International Merge

Telex Communications, Inc., and EV International, Inc., announced that they have completed the merger of the two companies.

The new company, which will operate as Telex Communications, Inc., will have over $355 million in annual sales and approximately 3,300 employees worldwide. The merger creates one of the largest manufacturers and marketers of high quality, high performance audio communications equipment in the world.

For more information, contact Telex Communications Inc., at 9600 Aldrich Ave., South, Minneapolis, MN 55420-4288, or on the web at http://www.computer-audio.telex.com.

Andrea to Acquire Lamar Signal Processing

Andrea Electronics announced that it has agreed to acquire Lamar Signal Processing, developers of enabling digital signal processing (DSP) noise cancellation microphone voice-driven interfaces within a wide range of audio and acoustic applications.

Andrea agreed to acquire from Lamar's shareholders all of the outstanding shares of Lamar for 1.8 million restricted shares of Andrea Electronics common stock and $3 million in cash.

The key to the deal for Andrea was that products incorporating Lamar's patent-pending Digital Super Directional(tm) technology will provide the optimal far-field microphone performance. Far-field microphones are required for such applications as video conferencing over the Internet.

For more information, contact Andrea Electronics at 800 442-7787.

General Magic Acquires NetPhonic Communications

General Magic has acquired NetPhonic(tm) Communications, Inc., a maker of the Web-on-Call voice browser, a solution that allows users to obtain Web documents using a telephone.

The Web-On-Call voice browser allows any user with a telephone to access the Internet without using a computer or modem. General Magic plans to incorporate Web-on-Call technology into future versions of Serengeti.

Serengeti is a second generation virtual assistant, which will be accessed through a proprietary natural language interface and will synchronize with a desktop or notebook computer, as well as with hand held PDA devices. It is expected to be commercially launched in 1998.

For more information, contact General Magic at http://www.genmagic.com

fonix Acquires Acuvoice

The acquisition by fonix corporation of AcuVoice, Inc., "strengthens the expanding fonix suite of speech recognition products," according to Stephen M. Studdert, chairman and CEO of fonix.

"When embedded with the fonix technologies, we expect AcuVoice to be even more superior in text-to-speech products than at present, and they are already the industry leader."

For more information, contact fonix at 801 553-6600 or by email adowdell@fonix.com.

Entropic Merges Operations

Entropic has merged its US and UK operations and is seeking investment of approximately $5 million to finance the next phase of growth.

Brian Corbett, the managing director of ECRL has been named the CEO of ERL and will head the newly merged group, which will now trade as "Entropic."

For more information, contact Entropic at +44 (0) 12223 302651 or by email at ct@entropic.co.uk.

Brian Lewis is the editor of Speech Technology.

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