April 19, 2013
Amazon Smartphone Rumors Heat Up As Online Retail Giant Acquires Siri Competitor
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The “smartwatch” and other wearable computing rumors are today´s “smartphone” rumors of the mid-2000s. When Apple finally released the iPhone in 2007, all eyes turned toward Google to release their version. Since then both Amazon and Facebook have been rumored to release their own brand of smartphones. Facebook has gotten the closest to this with Facebook Home and the HTC One, neither of which are what many assumed the social behemoth would release.
Rumors of an Amazon smartphone have been lingering for years. Some expected the online retailer to release such a device last fall when they announced their new, larger Kindle Fire HD tablet.
A new story from TechCrunch today is kick-starting these rumors once more as sources have told the website that Amazon has just bought their own Siri competitor.
Citing those sources familiar with the matter, TechCrunch claims Amazon has purchased natural language company True Knowledge, a company that has created their own digital intelligent assistant called “Evi.”
TechCrunch´s sources say Amazon paid $26 million for Evi and True Knowledge, leading to the inevitable question: What does Amazon plan to do with their new purchase?
This isn´t the first voice recognition company Amazon has acquired this year. In January the company bought IVONA software which is already used to power the Kindle Fire´s text-to-speech services. Amazon did not say how much they paid for their IVONA software.
TechCrunch claims their requests for comments from Amazon, True Knowledge and even financial backers Octopus Ventures were met with a “stoney silence.”
Octopus only said, “On this occasion Octopus will decline to comment on this specific portfolio company.” The website does, however, have good reason to believe Amazon has acquired Evi.
For instance, all the directors at Evi Technologies Ltd in the UK have been replaced by Amazon UK´s legal representatives, a fact which was confirmed by an annual report from Octopus Ventures. This same report also shows that the venture group recently dropped their shares in Evi.
Other records show that Evi´s loans have been paid in full.
As well, Amazon and Evi share the same company secretary, Mitre Secretaries Ltd.
Evi works much like the past and present version of Siri and other voice recognition services. The app is able to understand human voice thanks to Nuance´s technology and can return results thanks to True Knowledge´s search engine. Evi has even been described as being able to learn from every request and improving itself in the wild.
The app is available now for free, and if Amazon admits they´ve made this purchase it will almost certainly be pulled from the App Store.
It was almost pulled when it first arrived on the scene because it was said to be very similar to Siri, sparking concerns of patent infringement.
Last July Bloomberg cited other unnamed sources which claimed Foxconn would soon begin building a smartphone for Amazon which ran Google´s Android. The Kindle Fire also runs Android, but a forked version of the platform. While Android´s source code remains, Amazon has been able to make it look and act like its own device rather than a Google device. It was rumored that Facebook would do the same thing, but in the end the social networking company opted for an app with deep reaching capabilities.