IBM Bolts Voice Support Onto Existing Applications

New software takes existing applications available through a corporate portal and makes them voice-accessible.

IBM is continuing its push to let customers interact with corporate applications through speech.

The Armonk, N.Y., company this week will announce WVAA (WebSphere Voice Application Access) software, which takes existing applications available through a corporate portal and makes them voice-accessible. Customers can dial in using voice commands to access corporate applications and have information read to them.

The software supports VoiceXML and Java and comes standard with support for IBMs Lotus Software divisions Notes and Microsoft Corp.s Exchange e-mail platforms. The software, which includes sample portlets, will be available Dec. 20 for about $60,000 per processor.

So far, Cisco Systems Inc. and Nuance Communications Inc. have agreed to support the WVAA software.

Cisco plans to integrate it into its IP Communications infrastructure, and Nuance is supporting access to back-end voice servers from its client-side, speech-to-text software.

IBM officials said that although Nuance and IBM compete head-to-head on front-end voice software, IBM wants to ensure that WebSphere supports Nuance because that companys speech recognition software is widely used in enterprises.

IBM next week will announce WVAA support from fellow voice companies V-Enable Inc. and Voxsurf Ltd., as well as from the professional services company Viecore Inc.

Beyond that, it will be up to third-party developers to build portlets that support the WebSphere software.

IBM officials said customers can also expect to see voice-enabled portlets for customer relationship management and sales force automation software. While IBM has close relationships with SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc., those companies have yet to announce plans to support WVAA.

IT managers said that the application sounded viable for people who were working from the road.

"It could be useful for travelers when in the car," said Christopher Bell, chief technology officer at People2People Group, a media services company in Boston. "You can listen but not read. It might also [appeal to] old-school types who arent into the mobile e-mail way of thinking."

To that end, IBM is also targeting telematics.

The company this week will unveil WebSphere Everyplace Server for Telematics. Based on solutions the company developed for American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Hyundai Motor Co. earlier this year, the product is a formally packaged software offering that includes tools to test and build features into automotive systems such as voice command access to e-mail as well as things such as remote diagnostics and traffic alerts.

IBM is also introducing new versions of WebSpheres development tools this week.