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Amazon goes after Siri with Yap app buy

Business & GovernmentNews
by Staff Writer
, 10 Nov 2011News

Amazon's cut-price Kindle Fire tablet might not be a direct competitor to Apple's premium iPad 2, but the bookseller has confirmed its intentions to fight the fruity company on another level: voice recognition.

Apple's Siri - a 'voice assistant' which is capable of performing phone-related tasks or searching the web for information simply via natural language voice commands - might not be new, but its appearance on the recently-launched iPhone 4S was certainly most people's first experience of it.

While it doesn't always work perfectly - and has been denounced by many as little more than a gimmick - Siri turns heads, and Amazon clearly wants a piece of the action.

According to the company's latest filing with the Securities and Exchanges Commission, the company acquired voice recognition specialist Yap back in September - but, for some reason, kept things quiet until its purchase via a subsidiary was uncovered by the US website The Atlantic.

Although the original Yap app was merely designed to convert voicemail into searchable text, the company's intellectual property portfolio easily covers the creation and implementation of a Siri-like 'virtual assistant' which could run on the Kindle Fire.

While the current Kindle e-book readers - including the eBook-oriented Kindle Fire tablet - lack a microphone, it's a technology that could also be added to a future Kindle model, as an add-on for its existing text-to-speech capabilities and a way of making the devices more accessible.

No information is available on exactly how much money changed hands in the deal, but it likely cost Amazon a pretty penny: Yap's founders, Igor and Victor Jablokov, had already raised Series-A funding totalling $6.5 million back in 2008, a mere two years after the company was formed.

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