Nuance’s Vlingo Purchase Seen As Survival Move Against Apple, Google
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allows Vlingo, which has focused entirely on mobile phones, to take its voice-controlled applications to other consumer devices, as well as new sectors such as healthcare.
Another Boston mobile startup’s scuffles with Google have served as a warning bell for Vlingo as well. Boston-based Skyhook Wireless, a maker of location-finding technology for mobile phones, has alleged that Google intentionally interfered with customer deals it inked with Motorola and Samsung for their Android devices. Skyhook alleges that Google used its muscle to get its own location-finding technology into Android phones over Skyhook’s, and is also suing Google for patent infringement.
Grannan expressed concern that Google could potentially keep it out of the Android platform. “We’ve never experienced anything like that, but that’s a real threat that exists,” he said.
What does Skyhook think about Vlingo and Nuance? “As an industry player I’d rather see them join forces to fight off people like Google than fighting each other,” said CEO Ted Morgan. “Our business models are similar in that the technology is baked into devices as part of the manufacturing process. Whenever you do that you’re going to run into folks like Google and Apple that want the stack to themselves.”
“As a combined group with Nuance as a public company they’re going to be a lot stronger,” said Morgan
To drive the point home, Grannan used a World War I analogy. “France and Britain were skirmishing and bickering amongst one another until they realized that Germany was going to knock both of them off their feet.”
There’s one more intriguing aspect to the Nuance acquisition of Vlingo. For Vlingo co-founder and chief technology officer Mike Phillips, this is actually the second time he’s built a company that ended up as part of the Nuance family.
Phillips’ first speech recognition company, Speechworks, was acquired by Scansoft in 2003; Scansoft later acquired another company called Nuance and took that company’s name.
[Disclosure: Mike Phillips is the brother-in-law of Xconomy Boston editor Greg Huang. Mr. Huang was not involved in the planning, directing, reporting, or editing of this story.]