Nuance plans voice-activated iPhone apps for UK

LONDON (Reuters) - Speech-recognition software maker Nuance is launching software apps for the Apple iPhone in Britain as the company grows more confident that its voice-to-text technology is ready for global markets.

Nuance’s Dragon Search allows users to search the Web by speaking words into the phone instead of typing, while Dragon Dictation records a message of up to 30 seconds that can be sent as text or email.

Nuance has submitted its apps to Apple and hopes they will soon be approved for Britain. They are already available for free in the United States.

Dragon Search results provide a carousel of results from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube and the iTunes store, so a single command like “Radiohead” will deliver videos, music, news and shopping opportunities.

Nuance has seen 3.7 million downloads of its applications to date, as growth in touchscreen-only devices -- with on-screen keyboards some users find hard to negotiate -- helps to drive adoption of voice-to-text software.

Nuance, which is also embarking on a large marketing campaign, also plans to offer its iPhone apps for free in Britain, hoping to whet the appetite of consumers who may go on to buy more sophisticated software packages.

Tuong Nguyen, a mobile devices analyst at Gartner, said there was good potential in the mobile market for this kind of software, though it was still limited to more expensive phones.

“The devices that we are seeing now are much more robust than the ones we’ve seen in previous years. Really, they’re like mini computers. There’s more onboard memory,” he said.

Nuance has its work cut out to persuade consumers that voice-to-text software is worth the effort, after previous attempts to conquer the market proved premature, with software not wholly up to the task.

“People have not the best experience in the past so you don’t see consumers going out there clamoring for this voice to text capability,” said Nguyen.

Additional language support scheduled for late July will include German from late July and further languages later in the year, as part of the company’s pitch to the European market.

Nuance also provides the underlying software for iPhone 4’s voice control system, as well as similar products on Google Android phones.

Nuance reported better results than the market had expected for its second quarter, despite larger-than-predicted losses related to its acquisition of SpinVox last December.

While it swung to a net loss of $15.4 million from a $5.3 million net profit a year earlier, adjusted revenue rose more than 22 percent to $293 million in the quarter to end-March.

Reporting by Ian Smith; editing by Samia Nakhoul