Microsoft Sets March Launch for Speech Server

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates plans to unveil Speech Server 2004 during a series of speech and developers conferences. The company also says it will offer two editions of the software, one for large deployments and another for smaller enterprises.

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Microsoft Corp. will launch its long-awaited Speech Server in March during a series of conferences in San Francisco, the company announced on Thursday.

At the same time that it announced new partners for the product, the Redmond, Wash., software maker said company Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will officially unveil Microsoft Speech Server 2004 on March 24. He is scheduled to hold a keynote speech for the co-located SpeechTEK Spring 2004, VSLive! San Francisco 2004 and Microsoft Mobile Developers Conference events.

Microsoft Speech Server, which entered its final beta in December, will be the companys latest addition to the Windows Server System. It includes server software for handling speech recognition and text-to-speech conversions as well as a set of tools for building speech applications in Visual Studio .Net, called the Microsoft Speech Application Software Development Kit (SASDK).

Company officials have said Microsoft hopes to expand the reach of speech-enabled applications to smaller enterprises with its offering. But it also is targeting large deployments.

Along with setting a launch date, Microsoft announced on Thursday that it will offer Speech Server 2004 in two editions: standard edition for small- and mid-size deployments and enterprise edition for larger installations. The company has not disclosed pricing.

For specific speech applications, Microsoft is relying heavily on partners. It launched the Microsoft Speech Partner Program in July and said it has increased the number of partners developing applications to more than 60 from about 50 in December. It is expected to detail a range of partner speech applications during the March launch.

/zimages/3/28571.gifMicrosoft detailed some prototype applications during the last SpeechTEK conference. Click here to read more.

Microsofts push into the speech-technology market is being closely watched, partly because Microsoft is a major back of proposed speech standard Speech Application Language Tags (SALT).

The Speech Server supports SALT, which is one of two proposed standards competing for predominance in the speech market. The other, VoiceXML, is back by major competitors such as IBM. VoiceXML 2.0 earlier this month moved a step closer to becoming a full-fledged World Wide Consortium standard.

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