Microsoft is paying $19.7 billion for AI speech tech company Nuance, bolstering the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant’s voice recognition capabilities and giving it more clout in the healthcare industry, where Nuance sells a number of products. Microsoft will pay $56 per share for Nuance, a 23% premium over the company’s Friday closing price. Nuance’s net debt is included in the contract.
Nuance is best known for its Dragon speech transcription app, which uses deep learning to boost accuracy over time by adapting to the user’s voice. This technology has been authorised by Nuance for a variety of services and applications, the most well-known of which is Apple’s digital assistant Siri. (However, it’s uncertain how much Siri relies on Dragon to answer users’ questions right now.) In terms of transcription precision, Dragon is the industry leader.
Microsoft’s $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance comes in second place behind its $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn in 2016. It comes at a time when speech technology is rapidly evolving, thanks to AI’s deep learning boom, and there are even more ways for it to be used. In a variety of settings, from medical consultations to board meetings and university lectures, digital transcription has become more accurate.
New opportunities have arisen as a result of the increase in remote work. With so many video meetings, it’s easier to provide customers with transcriptions through software that’s built right into the call. Zoom, for example, integrates third-party providers like Otter to provide automated transcription.
Microsoft’s enterprise software and cloud storage revenues account for nearly two-thirds of its revenue, so upgrading its transcription services for cases like these make perfect sense. Nuance’s technology may be integrated into existing applications, such as Teams, or sold separately as part of Microsoft’s Azure cloud market.
However, the initial emphasis will be on health care, where the two firms have previously collaborated. They announced a “strategic alliance” with Nuance in 2019 to use Nuance’s tools to digitize health records for Microsoft’s clients. Nuance’s health technology, like its Dragon Medical One platform, which is tuned to recognize medical terminology, is said to be used by over half a million physicians worldwide and in 77% of US hospitals.
“By augmenting the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare with Nuance’s solutions, as well as the benefit of Nuance’s expertise and relationships with EHR systems providers, Microsoft will be better able to empower healthcare providers through the power of ambient clinical intelligence and other Microsoft cloud services,” said Microsoft in a blog post.
The Nuance acquisition was first reported by Bloomberg over the weekend, and it’s the latest example of Microsoft’s acquisition spree. The company completed its $7.5 billion acquisition of game developer ZeniMax last month. It was reportedly in “exclusive talks” to buy social video app TikTok last year, and it is also in “exclusive talks” to buy communications app Discord.