Amazon finds its voice with Ivona acquisition

Amazon could be looking to take on Siri and Google Now with its acquisition of Ivona Software, a text-to-speech company. The two firms announced the deal on Thursday but did not disclose terms.

Amazon already uses Ivona's technology for accessibility features on the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, including “Text-to-Speech,” “Voice Guide” and “Explore by Touch.”

“The Ivona team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world,” said Dave Limp, Amazon's vice president for Kindle, in a written release.

As with many acquisitions by major tech companies, Amazon didn't explain what it intends to do with Ivona’s technology. But it's easy to imagine that Amazon wants to build up voice-guided applications on its Kindle products, and maybe even start putting together a virtual assistant akin to Apple's Siri or Google's Voice Search for Android. Doing so would be crucial if Amazon wanted to get into the smartphone business, as rumored.

Keep in mind, though, that Ivona's existing products would only be part of the solution. Ivona specializes in synthesizing natural-sounding speech from text. The company doesn't deal in voice recognition, which is a big part of any virtual assistant.

There's also the data element—things like mapping, places of interest, and general trivia—that Amazon would need to come up with, as well. While the Ivona acquisition could indicate that Amazon's building a virtual assistant, Ivona on its own may not provide everything Amazon needs.

Still, Amazon's statement about “building great products” with Ivona suggests that there's more in the works than what the company currently offers.

It's unclear what will become of Ivona's existing products, which include text-to-speech applications for Windows and Android, as well as business solutions such as server-based voice synthesis.

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