Amazon acquires Yap to add a speech recognition component, likely for its Kindle e-readers and perhaps for its future Kindle Fire tablets.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has quietly
acquired small speech recognition startup Yap, providing yet another point of
competition for the e-commerce giant versus rivals Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and
Launched in 2006, Yap was acquired
Sept. 8 by a concern called Dion Acquisition Sub, according to this legal filing
. That firm shares the address of an
Amazon.com building in Seattle.
Yap Voicemail was a voicemail
transcription application for devices based on Apple iOS and Google's Android
platforms, according to CLTBlog
, which unearthed the acquisition after
learning that the service was being shuttered. Yap Voicemail went silent Oct.
20, according to the company's
Given Yap's clear speech recognition
intellectual property, it's tempting to view the deal as a competitive play
against Apple and Google.
Apple just launched its Siri personal
assistant on its iPhone 4S, which lets users order their phones to retrieve
information and complete basic tasks by speaking into their phones. Google has
allowed users to conduct voice searches on iPhones and Android devices for the
last three years, including Voice Actions, which provide Siri-like
Amazon, which did not respond to eWEEK's
questions about the acquisition,
will likely use Yap's functionality to provide speech recognition as an
alternative input mode to typing on its Kindle e-reader devices and future
versions of the Kindle Fire.
While the first Kindle Fire will not
launch with a microphone Nov. 15, Kindle e-reader have had them since 2010, as Wired
. Imagine being able to flip from one page to the next by
speaking. Readers might also speak to make voice annotations in the margins of
the Kindle book's pages.
Perhaps Amazon, which has its own
hardware gadget lab, is building a secret super phone, but that is extended
Whatever Amazon is using Yap for,
speech recognition as an alternative input mode has thus far been just that-an
alternative used sparingly by the majority of smartphone, tablet and computer
Google has said it sees a fair amount
of voice searches on mobile, but that figure is certainly dwarfed by the number
of mobile searches people execute by typing. Google said in June it has seen a sixfold
growth in spoken inputs from the year-ago period.
Finally, Google this past summer
launched Google Voice Search on the desktop, allowing users to simply speak
into the computer's microphones to search for what they want on Google.com.
Yet just as Apple's iPhone made the
smartphone a must-have mainstream handset in the United States, it might take
the mainstreaming of Apple's Siri app on the iPhone 4S to help speech
recognition break broader ground for the niche. But don't count on it. Old
habits, such as typing out emails and Web searches, die hard.
Even so, Amazon's foray into speech
recognition provides one more weapon in a growing arsenal it can use versus its
rivals Google and Apple as they battle for consumers on the desktop and mobile