Nuance (s nuan) announced Wednesday that it has already signed on 2,500 devs to its Mobile Developer Program in its first 90 days, with dozens of voice-enabled apps already created through the program. This news is curiously well-timed, amid rumors that Nuance and Apple (s aapl) are working out a deal that would see Nuance’s voice recognition tech more closely integrated in Apple hardware and software.
Late last year, rumors swirled that Apple had acquired Nuance, which makes Dragon voice recognition software. The rumors stemmed from a misstatement by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who mistakenly said that Apple had acquired Nuance when it fact, he meant to reference the Nuance-powered Siri app the company acquired in 2010.
Siri is just one of the many apps available powered by Nuance’s Dragon Mobile technology, which is a best-of-breed voice recognition software solution. Earlier this week, TechCrunch reignited rumors of a deal between Nuance and Apple, though this time it may or may not be acquisition that’s on the table. It might instead take the form of a partnership that allows Apple to use Nuance tech natively on its devices and in its data centers, according to recent reports.
Why doesn’t Apple just buy Nuance? Well, according to TechCrunch, Nuance CEO Paul Ricci is a tough negotiator. And Nuance isn’t a startup you can just buy without batting an eye. It’s a publicly traded company that’s currently worth around $6 billion. Apple has enormous cash reserves, but even still, Nuance would be an expensive purchase.
Nuance’s announcement today just reinforces why negotiating to purchase the company or even license its Dragon software for broad inclusion in Apple tech might be fairly tricky. The platform is clearly doing well, and is successfully transitioning into mobile computing. The press release detailing today’s Mobile Developer Program milestone talks about both Android (s goog) and iOS development, but goes on to cite only iPhone and iPad apps as examples of the Dragon SDK in use. The release appears designed to capitalize on the recent talk of an Apple partnership, and seems aimed at reinforcing Nuance’s growing value to the iOS platform. In fact, it could be a strategic bargaining move by Ricci if his reputation as a shrewd negotiator is accurate.
TechCrunch reports that Apple is planning on running Nuance software and hardware in its new NC data center, in order to provide better a better voice command experience for users, and because it will allow Apple to keep tight control over that data without sending it out to third-party servers. If Apple could also offer Dragon Mobile tech to devs as a built-in iOS API, that would definitely expand the reach and usefulness of voice control on the platform.