Apple to run voice recognition technology from Nuance at its North Carolina Data Center

Mon, May 9, 2011

News, Rumors

By John Hiesler:

It’s largely believed that one of the more important features of iOS 5 will be voice recognition. Not only did Apple purchase Siri – a company well regarded for their voice-activated personal assistant app – but rumor has it that Apple is exploring a deal of some sort with Nuance, the company whose voice recognition technology powers Siri along with a bevy of other iOS and Mac apps.

Over the weekend we reported that Apple was looking into a licensing deal with Nuance, or even perhaps a complete buyout. Originally relayed by TechCrunch, a new report from MG Siegler fleshes out some more details and it sure is interesting.

At next month’s WWDC, Apple will reportedly announce a new partnership with Nuance. More specifically, Apple will be employing Nuance software, and perhaps hardware, at their brand new data center in North Carolina.

Why? A few reasons. First, Apple will be able to process this voice information for iOS users faster. Second, it will prevent this data from going through third-party servers. And third, by running it on their own stack, Apple can build on top of the technology, and improve upon it as they see fit.

And fourth, of course, Apple likes to avoid relying on third parties if it can afford to do so. You know Apple, the more control they exert the better. So why not build out their own voice recognition technology? Well for starters, Nuance owns a number of key patents in the area, and Apple would likely have to traverse through a minefield of patents it would much rather avoid. Moreover, TC observes that “there are only a handful of experts who really understand this stuff enough to build such a system from scratch – and those people mainly now work at Nuance or Google.”

So a licensing partnership certainly seems like a tenable compromise that benefits both Apple and Nuance.

Speculation about Apple’s plans for its mammoth 500,000 square foot data center has persisted for months. From MobileMe initiatives to streaming video content from the cloud, the rumors have been all over the map. Call us crazy, but something about this rumor, however, feels a little bit more substantial than the rest. And for some contextual background, whereas companies like Google and Microsoft typically invest around $500 million into their large Data Centers, Apple’s investment in their North Carolina center comes in at around $1 Billion. Whatever Apple’s up to, you can’t deny that it’s big.

So with WWDC just around the corner, iOS 5 is finally starting to take shape. Of course, when it comes to hardware there are leaks galore. Software, however, is a different story. And with no developer builds of iOS 5 to go on, this nugget of information is some of the more detailed data we’ve seen thus far about iOS 5.

Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, iOS 5 will reportedly be heavily geared towards location and voice-activated services.

WWDC will get underway on June 6 in San Francisco, so we won’t have to wait much longer.

Below is an aerial view of Apple’s Data Center in Maiden, North Carolina.


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