Thanks, Bill & Steve!

What better way to start my first Blog, than by complaining about the user interface in consumer electronics products. That’s actually why I started Sensory 12 years ago; to allow people to communicate with products the same way we communicate with each other.

Moore’s law has given us more power, more features, more data, in a smaller and smaller box. The problem is that consumer electronics have exponentially gotten more feature rich and capable during their relatively short lives, but the buttons, knobs, and switches we’ve used to access and control the data have barely changed, until recently.

The amazing success of products like the iPod and Wii have shown the world that consumers DO in fact want a new user interface for consumer electronics. These are great examples of how companies can hit it rich, not by going head to head in quality or cost, but changing the game by changing the user experience.

Bill Gates knows this too. Surface computing definitely is a recent and huge move in this direction, but Bill has had the right idea forever. He’s been preaching about humanizing the user interface and the potential merits of speech recognition since Sensory was started in 1994. In fact my very first business plan had a Bill Gates quote from the 4/92 Upside:

“…if you take anything that’s a human skill, speech, listening, handwriting, touch, it’s totally predictable that those are key technologies; that people should invest millions and millions of dollars in.”

Well, I guess I’ve taken Bill’s advice and so far it’s paying off. Sensory is doing quite well. Voice Signal Technologies, who was a fellow player in the embedded speech market, also took Bill’s advice and their acquisition by Nuance should close over the next couple weeks, paying off quite dearly for their employees and investors (by my calculations the $293M purchase price was around 8-9 times current year revenues). One last thought on Mr. Gates; he’s taken his own advice too and has built and acquired (Entropic and more recently TellMe) a sizeable speech recognition team.

It’s too bad that whenever Microsoft demos speech recognition it doesn’t work! If you don’t know what I’m talking about then run a video search for “Vista Speech Recognition”; and that wasn’t their first public humiliation over speech recognition! Microsoft actually does have an EXCELLENT speech engine and speech recognition team, and I certainly believe that there was a non-speech related bug during this demo, but never-the-less; OUCH!

OK, I’ve spent enough time on my first blog for now. Drop me an email or comment and let me know what you think (that’ll be my main data point as to whether I’m wasting my time or not).