Cant We Just Talk About It?

Microsoft and SpeechWorks are squared off against Nuance, IBM, Motorola and others in the battle to create a standard speech interface for applications.

Lines are being drawn in the brewing battle to create a standard speech interface for applications.

Microsoft Corp. and SpeechWorks International Inc. on Monday said they will work together to deliver speech technologies to application developers based on Microsofts Speech Application Language Tags, or SALT, specification.

Meanwhile, Nuance Communications Inc. today announced its backing for a multi-modal interaction working group to be formed at the World Wide Web Consortium to push a rival standard submitted by IBM, Motorola Inc., and Opera Software ASA. Multi-modal applications allow people to interact with information using a combination of speech recognition, speech synthesis, text and graphics.

The Microsoft-SpeechWorks alliance, announced at the Telephony Voice User Interface conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., calls for the two companies to develop speech platform technologies based on SALT that would allow users to access speech-enabled Web applications by telephone, wireless phone and PDA and even Microsofts new Tablet PC.

The deal calls for SpeechWorks to become a designated ISV (Independent software vendor), marketing and professional services partner for the upcoming Microsoft .Net speech platform.

SpeechWorks will configure its speech technologies to support the SALT specification and integrate with the Microsoft speech platform. The alliance also will give developers access to a number of SpeechWorks technologies, including SpeechWorks Speechify TTS engine. Microsoft licensed Speechify in April 2001 and now has extended that license to the new speech platform.

SpeechWorks also will add support for the latest version of the Microsoft Speech Application Programming Interface, SAPI 5.1, to its OpenSpeech Recognizer and Speechify engines . It also will initially port eight OpenSpeech DialogModules to be compliant with the Microsoft platform, including its OpenSpeech DialogModules for managing dates, times, "yes/no," digit strings, phone numbers, alpha numeric strings, item lists and custom contexts, officials of both companies said.

The companies also will work together to promote the Microsoft .NET speech platform for building and deploying telephony and multimodal applications, and design and deliver education and training programs for developers building speech applications on the new platform.

Stuart Patterson, president and CEO of SpeechWorks, said in a statement that SpeechWorks speech technologies and Microsofts software platform were a "winning combination for the speech industry."

"We are particularly excited about the multimodal capabilities the SpeechWorks and Microsoft alliance will bring to developers worldwide," said Patterson.

Its those same multi-modal applications that Nuance wants the W3C to focus on and today asked the consortium to form a working group to create industry standards for the delivery of multi-modal applications.

The working group would presumably work on a proposal to combine VoiceXML and HTML as a multi-modal architecture. This proposal is an alternative to SALT, which the SALT Forum has not submitted to the W3C.

"Nuance is strongly behind the W3Cs formation of a multi-modal interaction working group," said Nuance president and CEO Ron Croen in a statement. "We encourage the members of the SALT Forum and other groups to work with the W3C on the delivery of a single, cohesive and open multi-modal industry standard."