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Nuance Gains as Wozniak Wrongly Says Apple Bought It

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak
Apple Steve Wozniak, speaks to the media following the auction of the Apple-1 computer, lot number. 65, at Christie's International in London. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Nuance Communications Inc., the U.S. maker of speech-recognition software, advanced in Nasdaq trading after an online video showed an Apple Inc. co-founder mistakenly saying the iPhone maker had acquired the company.

In an e-mailed message today, co-founder Steve Wozniak wrote that he had made an error when he said Apple “recently bought” Nuance in a video clip posted on TVDeck on Nov. 18.

He also mentioned “Siri” in the same sentence. In April, Apple agreed to buy mobile-application developer Siri Inc. to gain voice-recognition technology.

Nuance’s shares pared their gains after Wozniak’s apology, leaving the stock up 64 cents, or 3.7 percent, at $17.75 as of 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had risen as much as 12 percent, the biggest intraday gain for the Burlington, Massachusetts-based company since April 17, 2009. The stock has added 14 percent this year.

Wozniak, Apple’s lead engineer until 1985, is no longer employed by the company. Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, and Richard Mack, a spokesman for Nuance, declined to comment.

Nuance, which has boosted sales for at least five years, gets more than 45 percent of its revenue from speech-recognition software in the mobile market. With a market value of about $5.2 billion, Nuance would likely be Apple’s largest purchase since Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs took over in 1997.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, fell $4.63, or 1.5 percent, to $308.73. The shares have gained 47 percent this year.

Acquisition History

Scott Sutherland, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. in San Francisco, said a Nuance acquisition wouldn’t make sense, mainly because Apple is developing a lot of its own products for speech recognition, he said.

Last year, Apple hired a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker to help the company acquire companies. Jobs has bought 14 businesses, including four this year, since becoming CEO.

Wozniak, who founded Apple with Jobs, this week clarified comments he made about the company’s mobile operating system and Google Inc.’s Android software, according to the Daily Telegraph. He sought to make clearer remarks made to a Dutch newspaper in which he appeared to say Android was superior to the iPhone’s operating system, the Telegraph reported.

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