ScanSoft, Pronexus Launch New Apps for Microsoft Speech Server

Microsoft partners will announce on Wednesday a series of application for Speech Server 2004 to do everything from change an address to pay a bill through spoken commands.

SAN FRANCISCO—With Microsoft Corp. poised on Wednesday to formally launch its Speech Server 2004 during a trio of conferences here, its partners are preparing announcements on a range of new speech applications to run on the platform.

ScanSoft Inc. will launch on Wednesday a speech-enabled change-of-address application, while Pronexus Inc. will announce an application for paying bills through speech as well as a speech development tool for Speech Server.

Microsoft Chairman Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will unveil Speech Server 2004 during his keynote presentation at the co-located AVIOS SpeechTEK Spring 2004, VSLive! San Francisco 2004 and Microsoft Mobile Developers Conference events. Speech Server is Microsofts entry into the enterprise speech technology market. It includes Microsofts own speech-recognition engine, ScanSofts Speechify text-to-speech engine and a development kit for building speech applications with Visual Studio .NET.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more details about Microsofts Speech Server plans.

Besides providing a part of the servers technology, ScanSoft, of Peabody, Mass., is launching the address-change application that it built using Microsofts Speech Application Software Development Kit (SASDK) for Visual Studio, spokeswoman Marie Ruzzo said. It allows callers to change their address or stop a service through voice and will be available at the same time as Speech Server 2004.

Microsoft is expected to offer more details during Wednesdays launch about when it will ship Speech Server as well as announce pricing details and early customers. Microsoft already has said it will offer the server software in two editions—a standard edition for small- and mid-size deployments and an enterprise edition for larger installations.

With the enterprise edition, customers can swap in other partner vendors speech-recognition engine. ScanSoft officials said its OpenSpeech Recognizer engine is one of those options.

Outside of its Microsoft partnership, ScanSoft on Tuesday launched two new SpeechPAK applications specifically for its SpeechSecure speaker-verification engine. One is an application for resetting passwords and another that confirms the identity of a caller, the company announced.

Both of the SpeechPAK offerings, available now, support a range of VoiceXML 2.0-based speech software.

For its part, Pronexus will launch VeoBill, a bill-payment application for Speech Server within its VeoSuite line of speech applications. VeoBill will allow a caller to use voice commands and prompts to access and pay a bill. It will ship at the same time as Speech Server, Pronexus Director of Marketing Chris Biber said.

Microsofts move into the market will help spur further development of speech applications, an important step for making speech more widespread, Biber said.

"Speech Server is an important initiative from Microsoft because from our perspective speech belongs in the mainstream," Biber said.

The Ottawa-based company also is launching a new development tool for Speech Server called VBSALT. Based on the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) standard, which Microsoft supports, VBSALT allows developers to build speech applications in any Microsoft language and provides visual representations of the call flow, call logic and caller prompts, said Andrew Kozminski, Pronexus vice president of research and development.

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