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  1. Technology
November 26, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Belgium’s Lernout & Hauspie Speechproducts NV has signed partnership agreements with Analog Devices Inc, Digital Equipment Corp and Sun Microsystems Inc that will finally bring the company’s advanced speech recognition and digitisation products to international markets. The Brussels and Ieper-based company has long recognised that it needed partners to take on the production and commercialisation costs of speech technology. The cost of developing algorithms – in this case the set of mathematical criteria through which sounds are distinguished from each other – has already soaked up several rounds of venture financing. The most significant of the deals is with US digital signal processor supplier Analog Devices, which will use Lernout’s algorithms to develop cheap, multi-function digital signal processors for personal computer applications, via existing pacts with Compaq Computer Corp and Microsoft Corp. Applications will cover facsimile, video, cell telephony and multimedia. The two expect to sell a modest 200,000 boards equipped with the digital signal processors next year, a figure that is expected to rise to 2m within two years. Based on these expectations, Lernout estimates that it would stand to gain a much-needed $46m in royalties. Lernout and Hauspie Speechproducts’ marketing manager, Johan Tielemans, said the company was negotiating similar deals with other chip companies, but would not confirm whether they included Texas Instruments Inc, on whose C25 processor much of its existing algorithm technology was developed. Lernout also announced that it is to be business partner to DEC’s Valbonne, France office in non-English text-to-speech OEM products. Tielemans recognises that, as with the Analog Devices deal, significant revenues from these agreements will not filter through until 1993, and that the company is currently focussing on bridging 1991. It intends to do this through bank loans, pre-financing and deposits on long-term contracts. Lernout is anxious to leave the current share structure intact; its equity ownership is dominated by Lernout founders.

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