The stars appear to have aligned for the rumored Apple-Nuance deal, according to TechCrunch. The suggested strategic partnership between the Cupertino tech giant and the Burlington, MA speech-savvy software firm may find its first expression in Apple's new North Carolina data center, per the latest report.
TechCrunch's sources say that Apple may already be running Nuance code (and possibly some Nuance-supplied hardware) in the Malden datacenter, either to support the existing Siri product (acquired by Apple, powered by Nuance) or to begin building out speech functions for the rumored reboot of MobileMe as iCloud.
While Apple could afford to buy Nuance outright (the publicly-traded company was worth about $6 billion before the latest news shoved the stock price up), TC points out that it would be an expensive buy that would effectively kill the golden goose: Nuance's partnership deals, which make up a lot of the company's value, would get knocked out by the acquisition and would have to be renegotiated. The partnership approach gives Apple the core technology it needs without the overhead.
Apparently, there were other players in the speech bake-off; Microsoft is rumored to have pushed Apple to include its speech recognition tech in iOS, but Apple didn't bite.