Amazon buys Evi digital assistant, thwarts Apple partnership with Goodreads deal

Evi for iOS (iPhone screenshot)

Online retailer Amazon in an interesting personal assistant move has reportedly acquired Evi (pronounced ee-vee), a Cambridge, England headquartered startup that specialises in knowledge base and semantic search engine software. The company makes an iOS and Android app which uses the True Knowledge Answer engine and Nuance speech recognition platform to deliver answers to complex queries using natural language processing.

Apple’s Siri also uses Nuance for voice recognition and the iPhone maker even threatened to kick Evi out of the App Store for being too similar to Siri, but later changed its mind. Amazon previously in January 2013 bought Ivona Software, a Polish-based specialist in voice technologies that competes with Nuance.

Combining Ivona and Evi could yield some interesting results, giving Apple’s Siri a run for its money, even more so knowing Amazon makes tablets and is rumored to be building a smartphone

TechCrunch learned from its sources Wednesday that Amazon acquired Evi for a rather paltry $26 million.

Neither Amazon nor Evi founders and backers would comment on the rumor.

Here’s a nice Evi video tour.

In related news, Amazon last month bought Goodreads, a social cataloging service founded in December 2006. The news is interesting because over the past year or so Apple and Goodreads had begun discussing integrating Goodreads’ service into the iBookstore.

Goodreads (teaser 001)

The integration could have potentially allowed for social features in Apple’s electronic bookstore as Goodreads allows users to share and rate what they are reading. By the way, Goodreads has a nice client on iOS and Android so check it out if you’re into social reading.

Goodreads 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)Goodreads 2.2.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Apple executives “were perplexed when Goodreads executives went quiet.”

Goodreads had proposed its reviews and ratings appear within iTunes when users searched for a title, one of the people said. Itunes has already integrated Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings in such a way.

Apple was entertaining the idea, but talks didn’t progress much, two of the people said.

As if that weren’t enough, Amazon in August 2008 bought Shelfari, another social cataloging web site for books known for its innovative interface.

Shelfari screenshot

Both Goodreads and Shelfari are the two largest social networks for book readers.

It would seem to me Apple really needs to work on their acquisition strategies and learn how to cut deals. Way too often times the company finds itself beaten in acquisition talks by other interested parties.

While Goodreads’ reviews and ratings on iBookstore would have been nice, I’m sure Apple will be fine on its own.