updated 06:30 pm EDT, Mon May 9, 2011
Apple and Nuance due at WWDC with NC datacenter
The rumored Apple deal with Nuance has reportedly not only been sealed but will have a unique tie-in with Apple's upcoming North Carolina datacenter. A rumor Monday claimed that Nuance's voice-to-text features are already running in the facility and would remotely process voice commands on its servers. A deal will reportedly go public at WWDC in June along with the unveiling of iOS 5, TechCrunch was told.
The decision to process remotely, instead of on the phone, would have mostly technical reasons. As with Google, interpreting voice commands on a server would process them more quickly, according to the tip. The system would further help Apple scale up the technology on its own terms and keep the data out of third-party servers. Although not mentioned, this last step could help with both reliability and privacy by reducing the points where the system could fail or be hacked.
Microsoft had supposedly been pushing for its own voice recognition system, such as the one on Windows Phone 7 devices. Apple supposedly rejected it in favor of the Nuance deal.
Details of the service in question were still unknown, but any arrangement would almost certainly tie into Apple's buyout of Siri and its natural language task completion app. Many suspect that Apple is aiming to compete with and possibly build on Google's Voice Actions in Android, where users can do anything from a typical Google search through to e-mail dictation and on-the-spot translation using speech. iOS' current system, Voice Control, only allows basic control of things such as calls and music.
The Nuance deal had already been rumored as an almost reluctant one on the part of Apple. While the company prefers to develop technology itself, patents owned by Nuance and Google may have made it difficult or impossible to create a voice system of its own without sparking a lawsuit. Nuance's total valuation this week also puts at over $10 billion, which Apple could afford but might be too expensive versus a long-term deal.