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Posted: 03:42:36 PM, 31/10/2012

Audience Inc. still has aces up its sleeve

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Audience Inc., a supplier of audio processing ICs and IP, took some lumps last month when the company announced that Apple Inc.'s iPhone 5 would not use its processor IP. Since Audience had gained momentum from design wins in previous iPhones, analysts and investors predictably freaked out.

Apple has been a kingmaker in electronics over the past several years, and those who lose sockets in Apple products tend to pay dearly. Anyone remember PortalPlayer?

But the financial results turned in by Audience this week prove that the company is no one-trick pony. Audience's sales exceed its own guidance and analysts' expectations, thanks to broad interest from new applications segments and sales to another electronics OEM you might have heard of!Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Samsung!which by the way shipped twice as many smartphones as Apple did in the calendar third quarter!accounted for 55 per cent of Audience's $40.8 million revenue in the quarter. According to Peter Santos, Audience's president and CEO, Audience's chips and IP are incorporated into dozens of Samsung products, including the popular Galaxy S III smartphone. Audience also continues to derive significant revenue from Apple from previous generation products that use Audience chips, he said. The company also has plenty of other design wins in other smartphones, including the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL smartphone now available in China.

But the real potential of Audience has very little to do with design wins in specific handsets. The company's intelligent voice processors have found their initial success in advanced smartphones, but according to Santos, that's scratching the surface.

"We see this as a full a nine inning game and we are really just in the first inning right now," Santos said.

New era of voice command interfaces
Audience maintains that is developing "brain-like" technologies that allow mobile devices to deliver better voice quality for clear conversations in nearly any setting, higher accuracy and performance for speech recognition services and enhanced audio for multimedia recording and playback, including mobile video and music.

The real potential for the technology, according to Santos, is to enable voice command interfaces for all types of electronics. The company has started to gain design wins in PCs and automobile electronics!sooner than it expected!according to Santos.

Santos envisions a not-so-distant future in which we interface with our PCs, cars, TVs and virtually every other electronic product by using our voices to bark orders at them. Audience's intelligent voice technology is particularly well suited to this task because it can recognise and process voice commands even in noisy environments, Santo said.

Touch screen interfaces have exploded in popularity because of the improvement they provide in ease and convenience. But what could be easier or more convenient than hands-free voice commands? We are closing in an era where we interface with our electronics with our voices, even from the other side of the room or the cockpit of a vehicle going 60 miles per hour, like Jean-Luc Picard ordering a cup of tea.

Of course, voice command interfaces have already gained traction in some areas, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

"We are really just at the beginning of voice and auditory intelligence in user interfaces," Santos said. "Voice is going to have a very significant role as user interface comparable to that of touch not just in phones but along a broad range of mobile devices."


Dylan McGrath

EE Times

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