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How Siri boosted Nuance earnings

The voice-recognition company is viewed as a derivative play on Apple's iPhone 4S growth.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Nuance's consumer and mobile business popped in the fourth quarter as the launch of Apple's iPhone 4S generated more interest in the company's voice software.

The voice recognition company is viewed as a derivative play on Apple's iPhone 4S growth. For Apple's Siri to operate it needs the transcribing function Nuance's software provides.

Nuance alluded to the gains from the iPhone 4S halo in its statement and prepared remarks. Non-GAAP revenue for Nuance's mobile and consumer business was $118.7 million, up 31.6 percent from a year ago. The company said it landing new bookings and design wins from Amazon, CIBC, Comcast, Daimler, Diebold, Ford, Kyocera, LGE, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, On-Star, Renault, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, State of Maryland, Time Warner Cable, Tom Tom, and ZTE.

Meanwhile, CEO Paul Ricci alluded to the smartphone boost. In a statement, Ricci said:

Recent high-profile speech applications in the smartphone market have increased interest in our solutions, from both manufacturers and users.

Nuance didn't refer to Apple directly in a statement, but all those Siri commercials can't hurt interest in voice technologies. Ricci later acknowledged on a conference call that Apple's Siri was a big help in publicizing voice technologies. In prepared remarks, Nuance said:

In particular, Nuance had strong bookings in the automobile, handset and voicemail-to-text markets. Nuance's momentum continued in connected car implementations, through a 3-year cooperation agreement signed with BMW, positioning Nuance as the exclusive supplier for dictation services; an agreement with Ford to add language understanding to Ford SYNC services; and the launch of Nuance's in-car dictation prototype...Demand continues to grow for network-based and hybrid speech capabilities, as evidenced by increases in volumes of Nuance's network services and recent Nuance Voice Control contracts with HTC and Pantech, including the recent release of additional services in HTC's T-Mobile 4G Slide.

On a conference call, Ricci noted that the living room and television are areas ripe for expansion. The company has cut a partnership with LG. Analysts argue that Nuance could really be poised to gain should Siri power an Apple TV. Oppenheimer analyst Shaul Eyal said in a research note:

The growing expectations that a future Apple TV could be powered by Siri should be incrementally positive for Nuance. We remind investors that in order for Siri to operate, it needs the transcribing function that Nuance provides.

For the fourth quarter, Nuance reported a fourth quarter loss of $5.1 million, or 2 cents a share, on revenue of $367 million. Non-GAAP earnings for the fourth quarter were 42 cents a share, a penny ahead of expectations.

While smartphones get all the press for Nuance, its other units also faired well. Its healthcare division, saw revenue jump 22.6 percent from a year ago to $148.7 million in the fourth quarter. Nuance's document imaging unit delivered fourth quarter revenue gains, but the enterpise business was roughly flat.

This item first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog under the headline "Nuance gets awareness boost from Apple's Siri, smartphones."