Microsoft Corp. introduced its new voice-controlled software for Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs and Pocket PC Phone Edition on Monday, an unveiling that one analyst said may help the lagging mobile device industry.
According to John Jackson, an analyst with Boston, Mass.-based The Yankee Group, the reason implementation of speech-recognition technology hasn’t been tremendous over the past couple of years is twofold: implementations to date haven’t worked particularly well and people don’t see the need for this type of technology.
However, Jackson added that he thinks there is a market for this type of software and if the technology can boost sales of the devices, then so be it.
“This is a category that I think is pretty clear. The enterprise is going to drive it and it needs a shot in the arm,” Jackson said. “And so if [this technology] can provide some impetus for demand, then so much the better.”
According to Microsoft, its new software allows users to have speaker-independent, hands-free voice interaction with their phone applications including contacts and calendars.
The software giant said it has spent the past 10 years researching the software it calls Voice Command – technology which uses phonetic speech-recognition technology to allow users to use natural language. This would be as opposed to pre-recorded prompts, where the user would have to say the prompt the exact way it is recorded to be successful.
To activate the technology, the user would, either through a headset or directly into the device, say the name of the person they want to call or state a phone number they want dialed.
To activate the voice-controlled calendar, users would ask the device when their next appointment is, and the time, subject and location of each entry would be read aloud, Microsoft said.
Likewise, to launch the voice-controlled applications, the user would say what application they wish to use including Internet Explorer, Outlook, Tasks and calculator.
Warren Wilson, a practise director at Summit Strategies Inc. in Seattle, Wash. said the great hope with this technology is that it will be capable enough to simplify the process of interacting with small screen devices.
He added that by simplifying the user’s interaction with these small “clunky devices,” the adoption barriers that have existed in the enterprise will be broken.
Both Jackson and Wilson listed speech recognition providers Nuance and Speech Works – now a part of Scan Soft Inc. – as possible competitors for Microsoft in this space, but Jackson added that as a larger incumbent software player, Microsoft would take the lead.
“[Microsoft] can certainly afford to take a leadership position, and the market is open for someone to take a leadership position right now,” Jackson said.
The minimum requirements for successful installation of Voice Command include: Windows Mobile 2003 software for Pocket PC or Pocket PC Phone Edition; Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7 technology; Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium Edition or Windows 98 Second Edition operation system (OS); and a CD-ROM drive.
Voice Command technology was originally designed as a safety application geared toward mobile professionals who spend a lot of time on their cell phones while driving. Since beta testing the product however, Microsoft said it has realized that any mobile professional would benefit from the technology.
Also on the speech-controlled software map is Toshiba Corp., which unveiled two new devices late last month, both with text-to-speech and voice command capabilities. The Pocket PC e400 series and the Pocket PC e800 series – which differs from the e400 by offering wireless connectivity and voice-over-IP (VoIP) capabilities – include Windows Mobile software.