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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2014
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Amazon Acquires Ivona Software

Amazon announced today that they will acquire Ivona Software.  Ivona is the company that currently supplies the Kindle Fire line of tablets with its speech recognition capabilities.  Although there is little in the way of details regarding the terms of purchase, we can be certain that this signals an increased emphasis on audio input in the future for these products.

The immediate assumption that has to be made after this acquisition is that Amazon has its eye on a Siri imitation or something with similar capabilities.  Now naturally there has been some disappointment over how poorly Siri has lived up to the hype for iPhone users, but that doesn’t change anything about the appeal of the concept or the possibility that this could be a big thing for the future.

That’s especially true if Amazon ever comes through with their frequently-rumored Kindle Phone.  While we haven’t exactly seen any details emerging so far, indicating that this is a long way off yet even if it will probably be a future focus for the company, building this sort of capability to establish feature parity with Apple and Google products only makes sense.  There wouldn’t be much room to undercut prices the way the Kindle Fire made its big first impression on the tablet scene, so being able to line up with other popular smartphones feature for feature could be particularly important.

On the tablet side of things, there are other ways that Ivona could help things improve. Since the Kindle Fire HD is a consumption-based media tablet, it’s only natural to assume that something along the line of the Microsoft Kinect’s voice controls could be in the works as well.  Hooking up a tablet to stream Amazon Instant Video to your HDTV and being able to control it with a word from across the room would be quite nice if they can pull it off properly.

The potential for improving accessibility is also worth noting.  Ivona already works in various ways to improve support for the blind and visually impaired.  That would probably be more useful on the eReader side of things.  Amazon’s initial attempts to get their eReading line made into a standard educational tool were hindered by its inability to accommodate the visually impaired.  They have come a long way since then in various products, but this could offer new directions for them to approach the problem from.

Perhaps most important, though less impressive in terms of new feature selections, is the possibility that this will lead to more expansive localization options.  The press release makes a point of noting that Ivona offers voice and language products in 44 voices across 17 languages with a number more still in development.  Given the international growth of the Kindle line as a whole, that’s not a bad resource to be able to draw on.

No, The Kindle Fire Line Will Not Get Its Own Siri

Several weeks back, speculation rose about the possibility for Amazon’s following in the footsteps of Apple with a Siri-like product of their own for the Kindle Fire.  Siri, for those who aren’t aware, is a virtual digital assistant for the iPhone.  It allows users to conversationally ask questions and make requests that the software will try to accommodate.  For the most part it does an impressive job and when Siri can’t cope it will come up with a variety of witty or whimsical responses tailored to the user input.

The cause for speculation with regard to Amazon stems from their acquisition of Yap, a voice to text company whose specialty is transcribing voicemail.  While Amazon wasn’t mentioned by name in the acquisition, the company that Yap merged with lists its headquarters at an Amazon building.  There are a few reasons to make a move like this, of course, but it is fairly clear that the idea of copying Apple’s efforts was not one of them.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that Yap is absolutely nothing like Siri.  Yes they both involve accurately pulling information out of the spoken word, but that is as far as it goes.  Siri is an attempt at artificial intelligence that will try to understand user intent by pulling key words and phrases out of what it hears.  Yap’s specialty is simply putting words on “paper”, so to speak, in a cheap and fast manner.  Cloud computing is Amazon’s new big thing, of course, so the fact that Yap does its work mechanically on the cloud servers also fits in well with their philosophy.

What this could be a precursor to is an Kindle Fire type of smartphone.  While Amazon has not yet announced any official plans to add such a device to their growing selection of hardware, it’s a possibility.  The Yap software would be helpful for both its original voicemail applications as well as for voice commands, in this case.  The voice command idea in general would likely go over well on future Kindle Tablets, but since the only mic we’ve seen in a Kindle has been the disabled one inside every Kindle 3 it might actually be a bit surprising.   There is also the chance that this was simply a matter of acquiring Intellectual Property to guard against lawsuits and license to other companies.

Quite possibly my favorite potential use for this would be on demand transcription of audio files.  This would come in handy for practically anybody who regularly needs to deal with presentations or meetings, especially in business environments that require fast turnaround on their reference material.  That might be a long shot, though.

Regardless of how Amazon decides to actually make use of the Yap acquisition, there’s just no chance it will be as a Siri clone.  The Kindle Fire is great at what it does, but it lacks the hardware to make a Siri possible.  Even if that hardware were present, the speech to text component of such a feature would be only a small part of a huge endeavor.  It would be great to have that kind of capability, but it’s overoptimistic for the foreseeable future.