Wheres the News

By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-09-14 Print this article Print

What may be news here–and Im eager to hear other opinions–is free access to a whole store of prebuilt speech-recognizing modules. I can only recall seeing starter-kit subsets in the past. This also may be the first open-source access to a toolset geared for the dynamically generated VoiceXML environment. Audium (which I know a little better, since its within easy traveling range) has offered limited free trials of its J2EE tools and IDE in the past. Audium also has a great spokesman in its twenty-something CEO, Michael Bergelson, and the company is not going to set the entry bar very high for the chance to sell you its builder and runtime platform. But Audium is a little, 4-year-old company in a building in Chinatown. IBM is IBM. Click here to read about growing strengths in speech applications.
IBM has had a VoiceXML speech application tool for years, has its own speech recognition technology in ViaVoice and has hitched its WebSphere app server to a range of IVR/telephony servers including Cisco VOIP platforms, Genesys Voice Server and its own Direct Talk, whose name has changed more times than I can remember.
In terms of actual speech-enabled IVR deployments, however, it doesnt compare all that favorably to relative pipsqueaks such as TellMe (which automates call-center interactions for Fidelity, Verizon and others) or Genesys (which does 1-800-Flowers). IBMs biggest announced speech customers have been in car navigation or assistance apps: OnStar for General Motors and Honda. But IBM is very much about professional services now, and it gets into a lot of enterprises for a lot of different projects. Some of its most recent customer wins have been, if not about speech technology, at least telephony-related—see Dow Chemical. That gives it a lot of potential weight in the speech marketplace. Indeed, it has gotten 20 companies to sign on to this announcement, Audium among them. By announcing particular integrations with Avaya, it may be looking for access to more call-center projects and the speech sale potential therein. IBM also has the clout to promote a standard speech toolset, among Java programmers. In this regard, it competes with Microsoft, which announced its .NET approach to voice application development and its Visual Studio speech SDK. On this pre-expo day of SpeechTek 2004, Microsoft was conspicuous in its absence. Perhaps cynicism is not the best response to IBMs song, just because Ive heard it before. In fact, to have it sung with a range as large as IBMs–with ownership of so many pieces and manpower—can only be a good thing for speech. (How many of us have seen a commercial for Audium on prime-time television lately?) If anything is going to inspire Java programmers to write speech apps, and enterprises to pay the extra money to speech-enable touch-tone IVRs, it may be IBMs and Avayas imprimaturs and professional services arms. Ellen Muraskin can be reached at Ellen_Muraskin@ziffdavis.com. VOIP & Telephony Center Editor Ellen Muraskin has been observing and illuminating the murky intersection of computer intelligence and telephony since 1993. She reaches for her VOIP line when the rain makes her POTS line buzz. Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at http://voip.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

Ellen Muraskin is editor of eWEEK.com's VOIP & Telephony Center. She has worked on the editorial staff at Computer Telephony, since renamed Communications Convergence, including three years as executive editor. Muraskin's work has also appeared in Popular Science magazine and other publications.

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