Last November, I wrote a post titled "Top 10 technology flops." One of the 10 was speech recognition. Judging by the feedback I got from all over the Web, you'd think I'd said Apple was a flop or Bush was a great president.
What I meant, at the time, was that I was disappointed that we're not rid of all the keyboards, buttons, and remote controls by now. So I did some research and discovered that speech technology is indeed proliferating in some industries: defense, medical, call centers, and rudimentary capability for cell phones, edutainment, and high-end automobiles.
That said, I don't really care that American Airlines can recognize my voice responses on the phone. The only speech application that actually benefits me on a day-to-day basis is on my cell phone, and that's pretty basic stuff.
For the most part, we're still banging away on computer keyboards and drowning in a sea of proprietary consumer electronics devices and remote controls.
And now I know why. When it comes to speech technology, one company is holding just about all the cards: Nuance Communications.
Courtesy of dozens of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) over the past 13 years, Nuance now owns much of the speech technology on planet Earth. The company boasts a $3.5 billion market cap on annual sales that will likely top $800 million this fiscal year but, remarkably, has never been profitable. I can see why. Nuance has been so busy acquiring companies it hasn't had a chance to worry about a little thing like profitability.… Read more