TechCrunch is reporting that Apple is in the process of some sort of deal with Nuance Communications, one of the leading companies in the field of speech recognition. Many readers may be familiar with Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, however the Dragon speech engine is also licensed and used in a number of apps for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android.
What could the deal be? The most obvious choice is an acquisition, but as TC points out, it would cost Apple at least US$6 billion to buy the company. Apple's got the cash, but even for them that would be quite a purchase. TechCrunch thinks it's most likely the two companies are entering into some sort of partnership "that will be vital to both companies and could shape the future of iOS."
Speech recognition has been rumored to be a big part of the future of iOS. Last year, Apple bought another speech recognition company, Siri, which itself is powered by Nuance technology. Perhaps with the release of iOS 5 we'll be talking to our phones more than using them to talk to people.