Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What would Nuance acquisition mean for printing/imaging unit?

One of the most important companies in the printing/imaging ecosystem is making headlines this week with talk about its potential acquisition. But Nuance Communications' speech recognition capabilities are what the company is most widely known for among the broader business/technology community, so one has to wonder what happens if an acquisition transpires that focuses too much on the language recognition? Today's coverage in Forbes, headlined "Siri Is For Sale: Will Apple, Samsung Fight Over Nuance?", is a case in point.

I have had the pleasure to work with the company (in its ScanSoft days), while helping to manage partners while I was still at HP, and over the last 8+ years I've had the privilege of covering many of their products and acquisitions that have made the company integral to printing, scanning, and managed print services. The Nuance Communications Wikipedia entry is a good recap of their recent history too (since most of the articles I penned are behind paywalls), and just borrowing an example list of brands under the Nuance umbrella - e.g. PaperPort, Visioneer, Textbridge, Omnipage, Equitrac, eCopy - gives an idea of their reach. And a list of companies bundling or otherwise partnering with Nuance Imaging is a veritable who's-who of printer OEMs.

But clearly its speech recognition technology, integral in its own right to the world of mobile devices, has the eyes of investors, including legendary Carl Icahn, with his current 19% of the company. Would an acquiring company with similar focus know what to do with the Imaging side of the business? Among the two leading suitors, Samsung has a considerable printing business where one could imaging Nuance Imaging residing -though the fact Nuance has never had printing hardware seems to have made it simpler for them to partner with myriad of competing hardware companies.

Time will tell, but I imagine these are interesting, if nerve-wracking days for my friends on the Nuance Imaging side of the house!

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