I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Microsoft has acquired Healthcare AI and voice recognition powerhouse Nuance for the modest sum of USD$19.7 billion (Around AUD$25.5bn). For many, this is just another feather in the already very impressive cap that is Microsoft. After all, this is the ninth company that Microsoft has acquired in the last twelve months, and Microsoft already have their LUIS platform and a strong set of Cognitive Speech offerings, so what – aside from the dollar value -makes this one special?
This acquisition sends a bold, clear message to the market: Microsoft are not content simply being competitive.
It is easy to be complacent about software you don’t use yourself. For those that do, the Dragon suite of speech recognition is not only best-in-breed, they were the first major player in this space. With this acquisition, Microsoft have bought into a history of voice recognition going back to the 1970s, and in doing so cemented their position as a market leader forever more.
The same can be said for the Nuance Healthcare solutions. To anyone working outside the health care system, being asked to confirm your name, address, and date of birth the fifth time after you come in for a tonsillectomy is tedious. But it is there for a reason – the sheer quantity of information that needs to be checked in triplicate to ensure the right end of you is snipped by the right surgeon on the right day in the right theatre would overwhelm most of us. This directly translates to an absurd amount of time health care professionals spend on administrative paperwork rather than applying their specific skills to those in their care.
But all of this is not just for bragging rights. In the next few years, we can expect to see from Microsoft:
- Rapid expansion of their Power Virtual Agents to recognise natural language interfaces more natively
- Significant improvements to all aspects of the Azure Cognitive Speech services, including Translation services, captioning of videos (Already available but not great with the Australian accent in Stream), and speech-to-text
- Expansion of the Power Platform RPA Tooling (“Power Automate Desktop”) to significantly expand on voice-based triggers, integrations, and connectors
- A specific health-focused offering around the RPA and Automation tooling, taking all the strengths of the existing Microsoft platform and augmenting it with their new offering.
It’s an exciting time for Microsoft, and an exciting time to be working with Microsoft products. If this is a bellwether for Microsoft acquisitions moving forward, we can expect to see other clear market leaders in nuanced fields becoming a piece of a much larger Microsoft puzzle.