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Amazon announced Thursday that it is acquiring Ivona Software.

Ivona is a “text-to-speech technology company,” according to Amazon’s Media Room, and already powers “’Text-to-Speech,’ ‘Voice Guide’ and ‘Explore by Touch’ features” on the Android-powered Kindle Fire tablets.

“The IVONA team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world (sic),” said Amazon Kindle Vice President Dave Limp in a press release.

The acquisition marks Amazon’s seriousness in wanting to bring its devices’ features up to speed with the iPad and other high-end tablets boasting voice recognition.

TechCrunch suggested the move also indicates Amazon wants to do more with smartphones:

Specifically, adding voice services points further to a mobile handset/smartphone, as many have suspected Amazon would eventually launch. No comment on a phone specifically in today’s statements, but an intentionally vague reference to future products that is sure to send imaginations racing:

On the other hand, GigaOm noted that advocacy organizations for blind people, such as the National Federation for the Blind, have taken legal action against Amazon in recent years for not making the Kindle line available to blind students while attempting to ink deals with school systems that would add Kindles to classrooms:

The organizations argue that Kindle e-readers and ebooks are inaccessible to blind students and are thus prohibited from use in public schools by federal law. More recently, advocacy by the National Federation for the Blind may have been a factor in the scuttling of a multi-million dollar deal between Amazon and the U.S. State Department to provide Kindles to overseas programs. If Amazon is able to integrate text-to-speech technology into more of its devices, the company might be able to avoid some of these actions.

Amazon did not disclose the terms of the deal, but 9to5Google has contacted the online retailer for more information. The press release is available below.

 

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Amazon.com Announces Acquisition of IVONA Software

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan. 24, 2013– (NASDAQ:AMZN)—Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that it has acquired leading text-to-speech technology company IVONA Software. IVONA delivers world-class technologies that power the “Text-to-Speech,” “Voice Guide” and “Explore by Touch” features on Kindle Fire tablets. Additionally, IVONA delivers text-to-speech products and services for thousands of developers, businesses and customers around the world.

“IVONA’s exceptional text-to-speech technology leads the industry in natural voice quality, accuracy and ease of use. IVONA is already instrumental in helping us deliver excellent accessibility features on Kindle Fire, including Text-to-Speech, Voice Guide and Explore by Touch,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “The IVONA team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world.”

“For more than ten years, the IVONA team has been focused on creating innovative text-to-speech technologies,” said Lukasz Osowski, CEO and co-founder of IVONA. “We are all thrilled that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can continue to innovate and deliver exceptional voice and language support for our customers.”

IVONA offers voice and language portfolios with 44 voices in 17 languages and more in development.