China Mobile, the largest cell network operator in the world, made headlines this week after it agreed to plunk down $214.85 million to buy a 15 percent stake in Anhui UTC iFlyTek, a Chinese voice recognition solutions provider.
The agreement states, “Both parties shall enter into strategic cooperation in various areas including smart voice portals, smart voice cloud services, smart voice technologies and product innovations, applications in relation to customer services and fundamental telecommunications businesses.”
The iPhone 4S was released in China earlier this year in a partnership with carrier China Unicom, but has been criticized for its less than stellar results in translating Mandarin and Cantonese. China Mobile and iFlytek are part of the recently created Speech Industry Alliance of China (SIAC), a coalition of 19 manufacturers, carriers and software developers that pose a very real threat to Siri.
According to reports, iFlytek owns 70 percent of the voice recognition market in China. The company is best known for Iflytek Input, an Android app that integrates speech recognition, handwriting recognition and keyboard entry. iFlytek’s lines of business include InterPhonic, its TTS software division; InterReco, which develops ASR solutions; and its speech platform, iFLY MRCP Server.