Microsoft is all set to increase its presence in the healthcare segment with the receipt of unconditional approval from the European Commission (EC) to acquire artificial intelligence (AI) speech recognition firm Nuance Communications for a consideration of $19.7bn.

In April this year, Microsoft agreed to acquire Nuance Communications in an all-cash deal that also included net debt of Nuance.

After a thorough investigation, the Commission concluded that the deal between the two companies would not create any competition concerns in the European Economic Area (EEA).

In a statement EC said: “The commission found that Microsoft and Nuance offer very different products. While Nuance offers mostly pre-built solutions for end-users, Microsoft offers application programming interfaces (API) as part of its Azure Cognitive Services.

“This is of no direct benefit to end-users, but allows programmers to build speech recognition into their respective programs.”

Nuance offers Dragon software that transcribes speech using deep learning, and the technology has been licenced to various applications .

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In addition to healthcare services, Nuance has expertise in customer engagement solutions.

At the time of signing the deal, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “Nuance provides the AI layer at the healthcare point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise AI. AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application.

“Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate the growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance.”