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Nuance developer push sparks Apple buyout rumours

A flurry of activity at speech recognition specialist Nuance has fuelled speculation that computing superpower Apple might be taking a sidelong glance in its direction.

It's not the first time the two companies have been pumped out of the same end of the rumour mill together, after Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak dropped a clanger suggesting in 2010 that Apple had bought the company behind Dragon Dictation.

What Woz meant to say was that Apple had snapped up a Dragon-powered mobile app called Siri, bits of which are rumoured to be included in a number of the iOS mobile operating system's private and public APIs.

The latest tattle started with rumours of an Apple take-over, but Nuance is a long-established brand worth billions of dollars, and is unlikely to roll over lightly, even faced with Apple's virtually unlimited pots of liquid cash.

Talk is now of a partnership between the two companies in a move which is seen as so significant that Apple's new data centre in North Carolina is now being pegged as a possible home for a cloud-based voice-to-text service rather than a personal music depository for iDevice owners, as has been widely predicted in recent months.

Both sides are keeping quiet about the possibility of a meeting of minds, but Nuance has been unusually active on the press front recently, with a flurry of releases including glowing financial results, reports of acquisitions and the latest release today which crows noisily about signing 2,500 new coders to its mobile development programme.

Although Apple would obviously love to develop its own voice recognition software, Nuance has been in the game for so long, and holds so many patents in the field, that some are suggesting the Cupertino company was stuck between a rock and a hard place with a Google logo attached to it.