Microsoft adds Speech for better Communications

Microsoft Corp. has found a new home for its Speech Server product in its plan to provide a centralized hub for corporate instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol, video conferencing, and other communications applications.

At the SpeechTEK 2006 conference in New York on Tuesday, Microsoft is set to announce plans to integrate Speech Server, its interactive voice response and voice-recognition software, into Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. Office Communications Server was formerly called Live Communications Server; Microsoft renamed it last month as part of its new unified communications strategy.

The idea is to have one server software product on which corporate users can build a range of telephony and communications applications, said Clint Patterson, a Microsoft director of product management.

Microsoft will continue to sell Speech Server as a stand-alone product through the end of 2007. It expects Office Communications Server 2007 to be available in the third calendar quarter of next year.

Also at SpeechTEK on Tuesday, Microsoft plans to demonstrate a new feature of its forthcoming Windows Vista OS called Windows Speech Recognition. It will be shown during a keynote by Richard Bray, a general manager at Microsoft. The software, designed for disabled computer users, allows users to issue voice commands and dictate text into Windows applications such as Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, Patterson said.

Windows Speech Recognition will be available in eight languages as part of Windows Vista, which is expected to be available to business users in November and to consumers in January 2007.

SpeechTEK won’t be the first time Microsoft has demonstrated Windows Speech Recognition. It first showed off the technology at its Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) in Redmond, Washington, last week, with less than desirable results. The software failed to work as planned and drew laughter from the crowd of financial analysts and press who attended the event.

Patterson said Monday the “embarrassing and unfortunate” demo at FAM was the result of a bug that has already been fixed in the latest build of Windows Vista. He said he expected the software to work as planned during Tuesday’s SpeechTEK demo.

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