By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-08-30 Print this article Print

Pronexus Inc.s VBSALT 1.0, the first rapid application development tool for Microsoft Corp.s Speech Server 2004, does a good job of abstracting call flow from the Web application layer and makes quick work of speech application creation. However, companies that deploy VBSALT will still need in-house speech expertise or, lacking that, an outside consultants services for creating very sophisticated applications.

In addition, VBSALT 1.0 comes at a relatively high price: $1,200 for the first development seat and $600 for each seat thereafter. For run-time applications developed in VBSALT, there is a $190-per-port fee. The license engine for VBSALT is cumbersome and adds a seemingly unnecessary layer of administrative overhead, given the products relative cost in a larger, likely expensive speech application deployment.

The most significant advantage of VBSALT 1.0, which began shipping in June, is that it automatically generates and passes SALT (Speech Application Language Tags) tags to Speech Server 2004 when call flow diagrams are created for a speech application. Companies new to developing telephony-based applications will find VBSALT a useful tool for speeding application development.

During tests, eWEEK Labs found that the graphical nature of the call flow design system simplified the creation of speech applications.

Using the visual design element to create the call flows SALT tags eliminated the tedium of coding the SALT pages themselves. It also allowed us to avoid associated problems with hand-coding such applications, including failure to incorporate flow elements. In most cases, we could build applications simply by connecting application component nodes and dragging and dropping connections from output controls to input controls.

Click here to read more about SALT and the competing VXML specification. VBSALT tools made it easy to build an application that followed a logical flow and effectively organized escalation of prompts. VBSALT includes good error-handling tools and exposes tools in the underlying Visual Basic development language to create reliable applications.

However, some substantial expertise in speech application development will be needed to create more sophisticated programs because VBSALT doesnt provide tips for creating grammars and organizing applications in a way that will be efficient for users.

VBSALT does a good job of handling some lower-level components, such as channel controls, that are necessary for designing an efficient speech application.

VBSALT doesnt support the speech-capture capability of Speech Server 2004, so it will be difficult to diagnose problems with speech recognition or application logic.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Application Development Center for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.


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