Nuance acquired Android phone gesture software maker Swype for $102.5 million, which could position it for acquisition by Google.
Speech recognition software provider Nuance
Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) confirmed it has purchased Swype, a maker of
gesture input software for smartphones based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android
operating system, for 102.5 million Oct. 6.
In a curiously structured merger, Nuance paid Swype 77.5
million at closing Oct. 6 and will pay the remaining 25 million 18 months after
the closing, Nuance said in an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission
Swype makes virtual QWERTY keyboard software that appears
on most Android phones. The predictive text application allows users to "write"
words on their smartphones' virtual keyboards by swiping their fingers from letter to letter
rather than tapping the virtual keys.
Android phone users who become practiced
with Swype say they cut down their typing time by several seconds. The
software dazzled attendees of the TechCrunch50 conference in 2008
The fit seems logical enough, if not a little redundant. However,
Nuance combined its T9 predictive text software and Dragon speech
recognition product for FlexT9 keyboard, which lets users speak, trace,
or tap in information into their phones.
Nuance and Swype already have a big tie. Swype was
co-founded by Cliff Kushler, who previously worked at Tegic Communications
created the T9 the predictive text software.
Nuance acquired Tegis from AOL in 2007
How exactly Nuance will use Swype is unclear. Asked for
additional information, a Nuance spokesperson told eWEEK:
"At this point I do not have much to add other than
noting that both companies are excited about the acquisition and what it means
for innovations between our experienced teams and the solutions we can bring to
mobile OEMs and consumers. We will share additional information as we
advance these efforts and serve our customers."
The acquisition of Swype could position Nuance for an
acquisition by Google, whose speech technology efforts are led by Mike Cohen.
Cohen, who co-founded Nuance, led Google Voice Actions, which performs tasks
similar to Nuance's Dragon applications.
Cohen led Google's effort this past summer to make Google
Voice Search available on the desktop
and Google Maps
. Cohen recently told
eWEEK Google is interested in boosting its speech and gesture input technology
for not only its Android platform.
Google is also trying to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5
billion. If Google succeeds, it would own a major Android phone OEM,
and could make Nuance and Swype a major value proposition on Android
phones made by Motorola.
An acquisition of Nuance by Google could make things interesting for
other reasons. Nuance software reportedly powers Apple's new Siri
virtual assistant software app.