WebRTC Expert Feature

April 03, 2013

Icahn Speaks of the Future

First, words of caution: No one has ever hired me as a stock analyst, and you should scrutinize and verify my opinion. Secondly, Carl Icahn and I rarely communicate, so my interpretation of his moves is complete conjecture.

That said, the man who has agitated on Dell has revealed he holds a little over 9 percent of Nuance Communications, according the Wall Street Journal.

So far, the press on this is so small – I would have to say it’s barely getting noticed. And Carl Icahn’s history is to agitate, not manage. But let’s think about the nuances that are possible here.

To start, let’s sing the praises of Nuance. The company has been the keeper of the flame for speech recognition solutions, rolling out products from IBM and Vlingo, and continually pushing the research into products updates and new releases.

In addition, the firm has found ways to penetrate some very interesting applications, including Apple’s Siri and healthcare transcription, and virtual attendants.

Nuance may not have a very strong hold on the market, but it surely is the leader with a powerful patent portfolio, and an eye for opportunity. And the opportunity seems to be fast approaching, as the accuracy with Siri and Google’s speech recognition continues to show improvement.

Now back to Carl Icahn, just on the fact that the company is so portfolio-rich and product-heavy, it’s easy to imagine him forcing a breakup – perhaps even selling Apple, the Siri portion. Maybe Dell, of which Icahn has a bid into the restructuring, could rebuild itself with PCs, smartphones and tablets that have speech recognition as the embedded user interface.

Or, maybe like me, Carl Icahn just sees more opportunities for Nuance. 

We have lots of friends working on WebRTC that see it being a new phone system, a call center app, and a website social networking tool.  But how about a speech recognition platform interface? 

Attaching WebRTC to Nuance makes a very powerful cloud service that could very well be a dominant enabler.  Nuance has already built a speech search app you can put on your phone. 

All this blue sky raises the question as to why Nuance’s stock was on the decline before Carl Icahn revealed his stake. Answer: the company has been missing predictions and has a stretched balance sheet. If Carl Icahn does nothing more than force some management changes, the stock will probably correct itself.

But I would love to hear more.

Edited by Braden Becker
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