Nuance acquires rival Vlingo; speech recognition consolidation

Speech recognition giant Nuance has acquired bitter rival Vlingo in a deal that reminds me of when this site was acquired by CNET more than a decade ago.

Speech recognition giant Nuance will acquire bitter rival Vlingo in a deal that reminds me of when this site was acquired by CNET more than a decade ago.

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is how the old saying goes, and that's the case here: both companies were stuck in a patent litigation rut, and the easiest way to stop the fiscal hemorrhage from a legal fees standpoint is to just bury the axe and join hands.

(No, CNET and ZDNet weren't in a legal skirmish, but boy did we hate each other in the '90s.)

It's not that easy, of course, but both companies realize that they've got bigger fish to fry: namely, Microsoft and Google. As I wrote in a lengthy feature story for SmartPlanet, Nuance is itself the elephant in a room full of tech giants engaged in an arms race to bring the speech interface to multiple platforms, from cars to computers. It doesn't need Vlingo as a distraction, and Vlingo needs scale if it ever wishes to gain market share.

Vlingo's work on the Google Android and Windows Phone platform -- among others -- gives Nuance a hedge against Google and Microsoft. (Nuance currently powers Apple's latest shiny bauble feature, Siri.) Vlingo also gives Nuance an "in" with Yahoo and AT&T, who have backed the startup. And, arguably, the acquisition keeps Vlingo from falling in a rival's hands.

The moral of this story is fairly simple: why fight each other when you can both fight the enemy?