Microsoft Speech Server Enters Final Beta

The latest beta releases of Microsoft Speech Server and development platforms add new features in preparation for a full launch in the spring.

Microsoft Corp., preparing for an aggressive push into the enterprise speech technology arena next year, released on Tuesday the final beta versions of its Speech Server and development kit for creating speech applications

The Microsoft Speech Server, the newest addition to the Windows Server System, is aimed at broadening the reach of speech recognition and text-to-speech applications in enterprises, particularly small- and medium-sized companies, said James Mastan, director of marketing for Microsofts speech technologies group. A full release of the server software and the Microsoft Speech Application Software Development Kit (SASDK), a set of tools for building speech applications in Visual Studio .NET, is expected in the spring of 2004.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., began a beta program for the Speech Server in July and has since signed up 500 enterprises as beta users, the company said. Another 50 partners have also joined the Speech Partner Program for developing packaged speech application and services.

With the beta 2 of the Speech Server, Microsoft has fine-tuned its speech recognition engine and updated its support of ScanSoft Inc.s Speechify Text-to-Speech Engine to version 3.0 of that product, Mastan said.

The new beta release also includes enhancements to the Microsoft Management Console for the Speech Server, a common management interface across Windows Server

/zimages/6/28571.gifIn September, the speech industry got together for its annual SpeechTEK show. To read about the technologies and products displayed (and heard) there, click here.

Microsoft Speech Server supports Speech Application Language Tags (SALT), a proposed speech standard backed by Microsoft. The latest beta version includes an updated SALT interpreter that supports the running of multiple speech-enable Web applications on the Speech Server.

"Now you can have multiple applications on the Web server that will work with a particular speech server," Mastan said.

Microsoft has touted its model of separating the speech technology engines on one server from the speech-enabled Web applications on a Web server as a key differentiator. Officials also said the Speech Server will support telephony-based speech as well as multimodal applications, where a voice command over the phone could trigger a graphical response on a Web browser across multiple devices.

Among other things, the fourth beta of the SASDK builds greater multimodal capabilities with an update of the speech add-in for the Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer. The plug-in makes the mobile browser speech aware. The latest beta allows developers to better control application response to changes in the network, Mastan said.

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