Microsoft is buying AI speech tech firm Nuance for $19.7 billion, bolstering the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant's prowess in voice recognition and giving it further leverage in the health care market, where Nuance sells many products. Microsoft will pay $56 per share for Nuance, a 23 percent premium over the company's closing price last Friday. The deal includes Nuance's net debt. Nuance is best known for its Dragon software, which uses deep learning to transcribe speech and improves its accuracy over time by adapting to a user's voice. Nuance has licensed this tech for many services and applications, including, most famously, Apple's digital assistant Siri.
Microsoft's recent shopping spree reached a new climax this week with the announcement of its $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance, a company that provides speech recognition and conversational AI services. Nuance is best known for its deep learning voice transcription service, which is very popular in the health care sector. The two companies had already been working together closely before the acquisition. Nuance had built several of its products on top of Microsoft's Azure cloud. And Microsoft had been using Nuance's Dragon service in its Cloud for Healthcare solution, which launched last year in the midst of the pandemic.
Microsoft Corp.'s $16 billion deal for Nuance Communications Inc. is the latest sign that the next battleground for technology giants will be in healthcare, an industry whose need to embrace data and software was underscored by the pandemic. The acquisition will help Microsoft tap into Nuance's big business selling its software to healthcare systems, according to analysts and healthcare executives. Speech-recognition software like that developed by Nuance is emerging as an important new opportunity in medicine as doctors seek to speed up documentation of patient work with dictation rather than getting bogged down taking notes, executives said. "This coming together is about empowering healthcare," Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive, said in an investor call. "It's now very clear that healthcare organizations that accelerate their digital investments can improve patient outcomes and reduce cost at scale."
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nuance for $19.7 billion in its second-largest acquisition after LinkedIn. For the past 15 years, Nuance has been the largest independent speech recognition vendor servicing healthcare and enterprise customer service markets. With this acquisition, Microsoft gets serious healthcare chops, an arsenal of conversational AI assets (including voice biometrics), digital customer service technologies, and other assets like vehicle telematics and dictation. For companies using Microsoft and/or Nuance, this acquisition will provide them with more depth and breadth in the healthcare provider space, enterprise customer care, and enterprise cloud services. Microsoft is making a $19.7 billion bet on ambient digital healthcare How and why tech's big players are poised to give the industry its biggest shakeup in decades.
The deal comes on the heels of Microsoft's 2016 purchase of LinkedIn for $27 billion and represents "the latest step in Microsoft's industry-specific cloud strategy," Microsoft said. Like other technology heavyweights, Microsoft has been a big beneficiary of the economic dislocations during Covid-19. The company's earnings jumped by 33 percent in the latest quarter to $15.5 billion and included a boost from cloud computing and personal computing, including its Xbox video games. Nuance's technology is currently used by more than 55 percent physicians and 75 percent of radiologists in the United States. Microsoft said the deal would double its potential healthcare market to nearly $500 billion.