“When rumors swirled on May 7 that Apple might acquire Nuance Communications, shares of the software company rose 10 percent to $22, within pennies of an all-time high,” Peter Burrows reports for Businessweek. “The assumption was that Steve Jobs gets what Steve Jobs wants.”
MacDailyNews Take: That assumption would be correct, Peter. But, we’ll play along for now…
Burrows reports, “A safe bet—unless you know Nuance Chief Executive Officer Paul Ricci. In speech-recognition technology, which Nuance dominates, the soft-spoken Ricci is considered every bit as powerful as Jobs.”
MacDailyNews Take: Sigh. Playtime always ends so quickly! In wheel-attachment technology, the non-spoken Mr. Lugnut is considered every bit as powerful as Jobs.
Burrows reports, “Ricci’s critics say he’s lawsuit happy and uses strong-arm tactics to weaken innovative rivals so he can buy them on the cheap or put them out of business. Over the past decade, Nuance, based in Burlington, Mass., has sued eight companies over alleged patent infringements. It hasn’t won any judgments and lost one. On at least four occasions, it purchased smaller companies it had sued. ‘Competing with Nuance is like having a venereal disease that’s in remission,’ says Dave Grannan, CEO of Vlingo, a speech-recognition startup that’s involved in five Ricci-related lawsuits. (Nuance has four suits against Vlingo; Vlingo has one against Nuance.) ‘We crush them whenever we go head-to-head with them. But just when you’re thinking life is great—boom, there’s a sore on your lip.'”
“Yet for all its market share and acquisitions, Nuance is coming under increasing pressure. The main reason is Google (GOOG), which sees the things people say to their devices as a way to better target ads,” Burrows reports. “Seven years after hiring former Nuance executive Mike Cohen, Google is giving away its speech-recognition technology to the same phone makers and cellular carriers that buy from Nuance.”
Burrows reports, “As for Apple, analysts say it’s unlikely to buy Nuance. ‘Nuance has too many different businesses,’ says Gleacher & Co. analyst Brad Whitt. Jobs wouldn’t want to continue licensing Nuance’s technology to rival device-makers, Whitt says, much less muck around in the health-care industry. And yet people in this corner of tech can’t help imagining what might happen should Jobs and Ricci meet across a conference table. Says says former PARC director John Seely Brown: ‘I’d pay plenty to be in the room to hear that.'”
MacDailyNews Take: John Seely Brown must really want to see Ricci reduced to a carpet stain.
Much more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Who inflates the most, Burrows describing Ricci in comparison to Jobs or Ballmer at an all-you-can eat buffet?