Monday, June 20, 2011

Nuance corporate acquisition history

I'm sure most people aren't too surprised by last week's announcement of Nuance acquiring SVOX.  It makes a certain kind of sense, as SVOX was one of the last remaining SR vendors in the space.

This made me think about all the other speech acquisitions, where ScanSoft, or L&H or Nuance have made their mark by gobbling up other companies.  I spent a little time after breakfast this weekend researching all the speech companies that have been acquired by Nuance or a previous incarnation throughout the years.  I found it very interesting.  Hope you do too.

(NOTE: Click on the diagram to see the entire image.)

A couple of notes on the diagram:

  • BST stands for Berkley Speech Technologies, and L&H for Lernout & Hauspie.
  • The green boxes are where the acquiring company took the acquisition's name.  For example, when Visioneer acquired ScanSoft, they renamed the company ScanSoft.  Same thing when ScanSoft acquired Nuance--they took the better known name.
  • All of L&H's acquisition frenzy ended in L&H being hugely overvalued and going bankrupt.  So the "acquisition" by ScanSoft was actually ScanSoft picking through the ashes of the L&H dissolution.
  • Fonix as a speech company is still around, and they just announced this year they'll be spinning out Fonix Speech as a separate company to deal with speech in the gaming industry.  However, they also briefly had a stint in medical speech, where Fonix acquired Articulate Systems and  renamed that brand to Fonix HealthCare Solutions Group, which was then almost immediately sold off to L&H.
  • Dictaphone started as a company in 1923, but I chose to start the chart at 1971, since it wasn't at all clear when they made the move to start working on speech products.
  • The marks are only accurate to the year.  When two acquisition arrows are on the same year, the diagram may not show the exact chronological ordering within that year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Telematics Update 2011

Telematics Update Detroit is usually quite a good show for us since it gives us a chance to meet with long time customers, friends throughout the industry, and continue to build new relationships. We probably had the biggest booth at the show this year.  Certainly the most visible--you could see our banner from the whole of the hall! Of course we had the reskinned Corvette, a real crowd pleaser. See our website for a description of the HMI reskinning project we did with Lixar.  Our VP Derek Kuhn gave a great keynote about the future of auto platforms--a TU keynote being a first for us this year.  (Here's your honesty in reporting: this is not exactly an unbiased viewpoint, since I significantly contributed to this wonderful trailblazing keynote's content :-)

What would be my one word summary for the show?  Validation.

  • QNX has arrived.  We're finally to the point where people realize who QNX is and that we play in telematics.  Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, but it's so nice to have people come up to you who have sought you out because they know you're a trusted name in the industry.  I'm still used to the bad old days of having to spend the first 10 minutes explaining who we are and justifying my company's existence.
  • Videos actually work.  Several people at the show whom I've never met say "Oh, I've seen you in that video", or "I recognize you from somewhere, but I can't remember... Wait, it's your video!"  Okay, I'm not going all hollywood or anything, but it's good to know that the time and effort that me, our Marcoms, and our creative people put into producing these various pieces actually get watched! Of course YouTube views don't lie, but it's not about just who has the biggest number.  What's important is the context, and these weren't fluff conversations. (NOW WHERE'S THAT MAKEUP TRAILER?!)
  • GenIVI is irrelevant.  Yes, of course, everyone joined it as an insurance policy.  But fewer and fewer people are giving it any credit, especially since it's been two years since launch and very little to show for it, whereas we've come a long way in two years.  Having several customers give us unprompted confirmation really helps put the nail in the coffin AFAIAC.
  • HTML5 is the next pink.   Ask ten automakers what HMI technology they're using today, and you'll get twelve answers.  Ask them what they're going to use tomorrow, and you'll get one (maybe 1.5).  It isn't yet field proven,  it isn't a solidified spec, and there remain plenty of big picture issues to solve, and so I remain cautiously optimistic.  But the writing is on the wall.  And we'll be there with the big pink marker.
  • QNX CAR is making waves. I won't say much here, other than the fact that we had a lot of curious Blue Oval people getting a demo of our car.  'Nuff said.
One more plug alert: the bulk of this blog was written with my PlayBook over BlackBerry Bridge. (BTW,  despite what appears to be a common misconception, you can in fact get Internet tethering even if you don't have a BlackBerry.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Joys Of Travel

Business travel is so glamorous!  (At least that's what I'm told by people who don't regularly travel for their jobs, anyway.)

Here's a happy little example.  On my flight out to Telematics Update, I was standing in the line in Ottawa, waiting to check in.  A woman slides up right next to me (not behind me), as if she were my significant other or something.  I looked at her questioningly, but then went back to typing on my BlackBerry.

There was a couple in front of us, and she turns to me and said "Oh, I guess I won't get there sooner" all jovial like. I smiled because I had no idea what she was talking about, but then every time the line moved and I moved, she slid up alongside me.  I finally said to her, "you do realize I was in line here, right?" She said, "yes! You're in your line and I'm in mine." I wasn't sure what she meant by that, so I said that there was just one line here.  She started arguing with me that because there are two tellers there are two lines, and if hers clears first, she gets to go first. I told her there was a single line and multiple tellers allowed them to clear it more quickly, explaining to her as calmly as I could that she wasn't really following normal protocol. 

She got all indignant with me and said "you think I'm going to stand here arguing about lines with you? You'll get there either way!" She stopped the conversation, and proceeded to slide along side me the whole way up, loudly humming an annoying repetitve song and occasionally muttering "idiot" and many other barely audible little words under her breath.

You know, if she had needed to go first or had lots of luggage or kids or any half-lame excuse at all, even if she'd just politely asked me, I would have been happy to give her my place in line.  But just assuming she can go in front?  I guess the milk of human kindness needs it's fair side too.

As it turned out, I got to go first, because she eventually had to fall in behind when we got to the front--the opening between the velvet ropes wasn't wide enough for two.  She did end up on my plane, of course.  Despite being seated far in back of me in the plane, she rushed up the aisle as soon as we landed and stood right beside my seat so that I was unable to get out into the aisle.  I caught a glimpse of her snide smile back at me as she passed me.

Well, she sure showed me!

P.S. Did I mention my flight out was cancelled?  Good times.