In 1926 Nikola Tesla, scientist, futurist and inventor,
stated: "When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will
be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things
being particles of a real and rhythmic whole." In the 1960s
philosopher Marshall McLuhan's vision of technology in a
media-dominated global village was that it translates "our entire
lives into the spiritual form of information" and unifies the
entire globe and the human family into a single consciousness.
This week Nuance Communications Inc. (
) and its new "Voice Ads" realized more of what Tesla envisioned
and McLuhan predicted as "the intensification of the world
community," which he postulated before cell phones, smartphones,
laptops, Facebook or Google. A few days ago, Nuance
Communications unveiled "Voice Ads," as a new mobile advertising
format that lets a
have two-way conversations with the brands they love. The
question is: Do you WANT to have a conversation with a brand? I
don't. I never talk to my shampoo. Ever.
The company says, "By integrating Nuance's powerful voice
technology, Nuance Voice Ads transforms traditional mobile
advertising into an engaging and entertaining conversational
experience, and finally gives consumers a say in the way brands
advertise to them - literally." If you read between the lines as
did Marshall McLuhan, the question is: Do you want to work for an
ad agency without knowing it or without being paid for it? I
don't. And I already have a say in the way brands advertise to me
- buy or pass on a purchase.
The company's advertising copy says, "Nuance Voice Ads present an
entirely new set of rules, and a brand new take on mobile
advertising. By removing the constraints of the visual interface,
Nuance Voice Ads embrace the most natural engagement process
known to mankind: Conversation."
The question is: Since radio also removed visual constraints so
long ago and delivers ad content very nicely, and you can turn
the radio off, do you really want to converse with ads, keyed to
voice recognition, on your personal phone? I don't. I really
don't. And the "entirely new set of rules" they are referring to
probably means that a consumer may have to agree to surrendering
privacy and asserting "no personal boundaries" whatsoever,
Facebook style. Like our email account providers, maybe they just
want your data, and the data of billions?
When you read Nuance's explanation of their new Voice Ads, and it
makes absolutely no immediate sense but sounds really fun, you
have to wonder if this is more Homeland Security technology
parlaying itself into the commercial realm. Yes, the idea is to
move advertising revenue to smartphones. But the selling angle
that voice ads are helping consumers "interact with brands" could
be marketing spluff hiding a clever misappropriation of the
old-fashioned telephone, a machine through which one person talks
to another, in relative privacy.
Is this technology just another excuse to use geo-fencing and
cell phone spying to not only listen in on consumer conversations
but glean data from them, so that someone you don't know can know
you better? Do you really want to HELP them to help you to help
them? I don't.
George Orwell described a "dystopia" held in check by omnipresent
surveillance in his classic novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four." He was
right. It's far worse than we can imagine. As a consumer, I don't
know the full extent of what is coming with smartphone voice ad
technologies. As a consumer I don't want to buy into anymore
unrelenting technological interference. But as an investor,
apparently activist investor
Near the unveiling of Nuance's Voice Ads, Guru
made a new buy of NUAN shares, for a total of current shares at
29,329,291, as of March 20, 2013. The stock price range was $19.5
of Icahn Capital Management LP the largest Guru stakeholder of
NUAN, followed by
Nuance Communications Inc. (
has a market cap of $6.66 billion. Its P/E is 36.95; the P/B is
2.37. The company's 12-month revenue growth rate is 25.3%, annual
rate per share.
The current price is $21.06, with a change from average up 8%.
The stock is down 17% in the past twelve months.
NUAN data byGuruFocus.com
Here's a summary of Carl Icahn's top buys, top sells, and top
Finally, McLuhan said that the objective of advertising is the
manipulation, exploitation, and control of the individual. Do you
really want that?
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