Watch out, Siri. You're not the only speech-recognizing intelligent assistant out there. Amazon might have something in the works, having snapped up a speech-recognition startup a few weeks ago, which might suddenly crop up as a feature in the Kindle Fire in the future.
Yapping About Speech Recognition
Amazon has reportedly acquired a Charlotte-based voice-to-text startup called Yap. The acquisition was actually made under the radar, and Amazon was not mentioned in the SEC filings. However, according to the documents, the new owner is a "Dion Acquisition Sub," which is headquartered in one of Amazon's buildings in Washington. Connecting the dots, and with speech recognition being one of the recently-launched Apple iPhone 4S' strongest selling points, Amazon might have a Siri competitor in the works here.
Founded in 2006, Yap's consumer voicemail-to-text service is actually still in private beta, but the underlying technology and intellectual property are said to go far beyond simple voicemail to text. Neither Amazon nor Yap have confirmed the deal, but with the upcoming public release of Amazon's latest Kindle Fire tablet, the company might be itching to challenge Apple's iOS devices on yet another level.
Siri, How Fast Can You Sell iPhones?
Apple launched the iPhone 4S in early October without differentiating the hardware too much from the previous iPhone 4 model, at least in appearance. But the new smartphone's killer feature is said to be Siri, the intelligent and sometimes witty personal assistant that users can talk to for setting appointments, retrieving information, and even taking down dictations. Siri is currently an iPhone 4S exclusive, which also helps drive sales, with analysts estimating a 29 million iPhone sales figure just this 4Q 2011.
Even so, Android -- which powers Amazon's Kindle Fire -- is actually no stranger to speech recognition. Even older Android releases supported voice search and voice commands. But where Siri shines is natural language processing. Users don't need to memorize commands and keywords when talking to Siri. One can just talk as if with another person. Will this be the same case with Amazon's new acquisition?
Amazon is heavily banking on users purchasing e-books and other merchandise through their Kindle Fire tablets. Each Kindle Fire will reportedly sell at a loss, and so Amazon is banking on the volume of Kindle sales in order to make a significant dent in the tablet market. Will a promise to add speech recognition to its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers sweeten the deal for Amazon Kindle Fire users?