Microsoft has announced plans to acquire AI speech software firm Nuance Communications in a deal worth around $16 billion.
The deal is expected to close later in 2021 and will see Nuance Chief Executive Mark Benjamin stay on at the firm.
Microsoft said the acquisition will build on an existing partnership with Nuance and further expand its reach into healthcare, with the tech giant having recently accelerated efforts to provide “industry-specific cloud offerings” to customers and partners.
Last year, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, which the firm said aims to address the “comprehensive needs of the rapidly transforming and growing healthcare industry”.
“By augmenting the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare with Nuance’s solutions, as well as the benefit of Nuance’s expertise and relationships with EHR systems providers, Microsoft will be better able to empower healthcare providers through the power of ambient clinical intelligence,” the firm said in a statement.
US-based Nuance is a leading cloud and AI software provider specialising in conversational AI for healthcare providers. Operating in 28 countries globally, Nuance said it provides software to up to 77% of all hospitals in the US.
The Boston firm has blazed a trail in speech recognition technology and transcription software, and is perhaps best known for its involvement in the launch of Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.
In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella commented: “Nuance provides the AI layer at the healthcare point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise AI.
“AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application. Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Nuance.”
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Mark Benjamin, Chief Executive of Nuance, added: “Over the past three years, Nuance has streamlined its portfolio to focus on the healthcare and enterprise AI segments, where there has been accelerated demand for advanced conversational AI and ambient solutions.
“To seize this opportunity, we need the right platform to bring focus and global scale to our customers and partners.”
Once complete, the Nuance Communications deal will represent Microsoft’s second-largest acquisition behind its $26bn deal for LinkedIn five years ago.
The deal is also the second significant move by the company in the space of a year. In September 2020, Microsoft announced a $7.5bn deal for video game developer Zenimax studios and was rumoured to be priming for a charge at online chat platform, Discord.