On Tuesday, Nuance Communications debuted what executives called “true” mobile versions of its popular Dragon dictation apps for iOS and Android, bridging them to new, updated Windows and Mac apps with a cloud-connected service.
This new platform, called Dragon Anywhere, consists of both of Nuance’s mobile apps as well as the service that connects those recordings back to new versions of Dragon for Mac and Dragon Professional Individual, a cheaper version of Dragon Professional for Windows. Dragon Anywhere isn’t cloud-based, where the processing takes place in the cloud—instead, the cloud just serves to transmit files back and forth between the various Dragon products.
But its competition isn’t standing still. When Dragon NaturallySpeaking debuted in 1997, dictating text via Windows was a novelty, even after Microsoft built its own dictation functions into the Windows operating system. (It’s still there in Windows 10.) Today, however, orally commanding Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, or Google Now is relatively commonplace. If you’d like, you can still buy Dragon Dictation for iOS, or use the mic function that’s built into the Swype keyboard.
“But that’s all tuned to the short stuff, rather than actual document creation,” said Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager of Dragon, in an interview with PCWorld.
Why this matters: With operating systems incorporating speech to command and control them, Nuance hopes that uses will become more frequent users of dictation—and quickly discover the limits of the operating systems that they routinely use. At the same time, Nuance’s new pricing models offer the barest acknowledgement that consumers are becoming more used to be free. But Nuance executives are also clear: Dragon is a premium product, with premium pricing.
On the go dictation
The idea behind Dragon Anywhere is that users can begin dictating notes on the go, then save them to the cloud. Later, they can either pick up the session on their phones or on the desktop apps.
The Android and iOS versions of Dragon Anywhere use the same Dragon engine that’s found on the desktop. Users train the engine using their voice, and can use customized words, voice shortcuts (macros, essentially) and frequently-used text. But the two mobile apps will be sold on a subscription basis this fall for either $15 per month or $150 per year, Mahoney said.
Nuance has priced its Dragon Professional Software at $600 for a single license—quite a bit to pay for dictation software. On Tuesday, Nuance will offer a cheaper option: Dragon Professional Individual, which will be offered for $300 (or $150 for those upgrading from Dragon Professional versions 12 and higher; or for $200 for users upgrading from Dragon Premium 12 and up). It too will offer custom words, the creation of text macros, and the ability to automate repetitive tasks.
Nuance will also offer Dragon for Mac, which will be available for download in the U.S., U.K., and Australia for $200 in early September, with special upgrade pricing of $100 for registered users of Dragon Dictate for Mac, versions 3 and higher. While it has the same core Dragon engine as the Windows version, it lacks some of the features, Mahoney explained, including the automation component. But it, like the Windows versions, will talk to Dragon Anywhere.
The new Dragon software is all speaker dependent, meaning that it’s really designed for one speaker: You. But Mahoney also showed off a capability in Dragon Professional that allows you to import speech files (such as an MP3) and run it through the Dragon software. Once you do so, it will ask you to “train” the engine for that speaker, correcting the first minute of audio as it plays back. Thereafter, Dragon will apply that speaker model to the rest of the speech. There are a few catches: The audio has to be sampled at 16 KHz or higher, and can only include one speaker. Dragon anticipates a day where it can transcribe audio with more than one speaker, but it’s not there yet.