.Net Speech SDK Goes to Beta

Microsoft unveils the beta of its .Net Speech Software Development Kit and a .Net Speech platform for building and deploying telephony and multimodal applications.

Microsoft Corp. will on Tuesday announce the beta of its .Net Speech Software Development Kit, a Web developer tool based on the Speech Application Language Tags, or SALT, specification.

The Redmond, Wash., software company is also planning a .Net Speech platform for building and deploying telephony and multimodal applications. This is essentially server technology and an extension of its .Net server platform, John Mastan, group product manager for Microsofts .Net Speech Technologies Group, told eWEEK in an interview on Monday.

"That back-end platform will consist of a Microsoft telephony server component, a new Microsoft-developed speech recognition engine and the Speechify text-to-speech engine we are licensing from SpeechWorks [International Inc.]," he said.

"While the actual go-to-market configuration and how this will be put together still have to be determined, we will be providing customers with these three components in some way so they can be deployed," he said.

Microsoft is looking to have a beta of the product ready later this year, with the final product expected to ship sometime next year, Mastan said.

.Net Speech SDK Version 1.0, which will be released today at the AVIOS Speech Expo in San Jose, Calif., is essentially a set of SALT-based speech application development tools and speech controls that integrate with Visual Studio .Net.

"It is also the first toolkit to integrate with the Microsoft ASP .Net Web server programming environment and will allow developers to write combined speech and visual Web applications in a single code base that is easy to maintain and modify," he said.

The SDK, which can be ordered from Microsofts Web site, includes tools for debugging and creating simple and robust grammar and prompts. The set of SALT-based ASP .Net controls will allow developers to add speech capabilities to their HTML and XHTML Web applications.

"SALT defines a lightweight set of extensions to familiar Web markup languages, in particular HTML and XHTML, that will enable multimodal and telephony access to information, applications and Web services from PCs, telephones, cellular phones, Tablet PCs and wireless personal digital assistants," Mastan said.

While the .Net Speech SDK comes with speech extensions for Microsofts Internet Explorer browser software, Microsoft will be providing an add-on for the Pocket Internet Explorer sometime before the final version of the SDK ships over the next 12 months, Mastan said.

The SALT specification will also be submitted to a standards body "sometime this summer," he said. "The SALT Forum is very close to submitting the SALT specification to a standards body, but exactly which standards body has still to be determined," he said.

Some 20 new contributors to the SALT Forum will also be announced on Tuesday, according to Mastan. The SALT Forum is an open, platform-independent standard based on existing Web standards. Founding members include Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Microsoft and Philips Speech Processing.

Asked about the benefits of the Microsoft SDK and .Net Speech Platform for a developer using VoiceXML, Mastan said these initiatives would help create a lot more awareness around speech technologies in general, particularly for medium to large-sized businesses.

"It is also an opportunity for developers using VoiceXML to move into the mainstream and build new and exciting applications based on new technologies," he said.