Amazon Buys TTS Provider Ivona

Further differentiating itself from tablet competitors, Amazon.com has acquired text-to-speech technology company Ivona Software. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Ivona provided the technology behind the "Text-to-Speech," "Voice Guide," and "Explore by Touch" features on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets. Additionally, Ivona delivers text-to-speech products and services to thousands of global developers, businesses, and customers. The Poland-based company has several products, including Ivona Voices; Ivona Reader; Ivona Studio; Ivona Telecom; Ivona Speech Server; and Ivona Speech Cloud. Ivona offers 44 female and male voices in 17 languages, with more in development.

"We share Ivona's passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to continuing to support their growth," says an Amazon.com spokesperson. "We will continue to incorporate Ivona's voice solutions into our Kindle Fire tablets, as well as support Ivona as they distribute their products and services to developers, businesses, and customers around the world."

"The prospect for a talking Kindle to revolutionize mobile online commerce gets more real as [Amazon] assimilates companies like Ivona, as well as its previous acquisition of Yap," says Dan Miller, founder and senior analyst at Opus Research. "Its direct competition is Apple and Google. All are leveraging their commerce clouds, online marketplaces, and device strategies with human-like, natural interfaces."

Jim Larson, an independent consultant, sees several possible uses of Ivona technology by Amazon. "Amazon could use build a virtual intelligent agent for mobile devices that uses the Ivona software to speak to the user. Such a virtual agent would boost Amazon's sales capability," he says. "Amazon could also use the Ivona software to produce synthetic speech for their Kindle product. And they could invite customers of Amazon's back-end technology platform to develop applications that speak to their customers. Any of these uses would give Amazon strength in the next generation of customer shopping and sales."

The acquisition also says something about how the speech processing market is consolidating, says Miller.

"Being the best provider of text-to-speech is not enough," he says. "Complete solutions include the device, resources in the cloud, analytics, and intelligence. Human-like, spoken output is an important attribute, but hardly enough to support a standalone business."

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