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Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Your Computer

In This Issue:
1. Editor's Note: Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Your Computer
2. Today's Top Story
    - Hackers Exploit Windows 'MS06-040' Security Vulnerability
    Related Story:
    - Microsoft Issues Advisory About MS06-040 Attack
3. Breaking News
    - U.K. Authorities Loosen Airline Laptop Restrictions
    - No SA 'Make Goods' From Microsoft, Says Gartner
    - Intel To Winnow Pentium D Dual-Core Lineup
    - Grid Computing Doubles Capability Of Hurricane Research
    - Storage Guru Predicts Major Changes In Technology
    - Q&A: Pat Moorhead, Advanced Micro Devices
    - Oracle Refreshes PeopleSoft CRM Software
    - How To Build A High-Class Media PC With Antec's Fusion Media Center Case
    - Go Daddy Only The Latest Tech IPO Flop
    - Security Spec Near For Burning Downloaded Movies To DVDs
    - Open-Source E-Mail Options Expanding
    - Integration For Real People
4. Grab Bag
    - Microsoft: Build Your Own Xbox Game (BetaNews)
    - The Rotary Cellular Phone: The Ultimate In Retro Low-Tech Chic (Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine)
    - The Subway With Ease (Government Technology)
    - Chipped Passports Coming Monday (Wired News)
5. In Depth: E-Business
    - AOL Search-Term Data Was Anonymous, But Not Innocuous
    - Microsoft Opens Beta On WYSIWYG Blog-Writing Tool
    - New Gecko-Based Browser Debuts
    - Google Adds Video Link To Home Page
    - AOL Buys Userplane To Expand IM Ad Network
6. Voice Of Authority
    - Blinded By The Glare Of Facial Piercings At Black Hat (Or, The One That Got Away)
7. White Papers
    - Improve Marketing, Sales, And Service Processes
8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek
9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

Quote of the day:
"I never think of the future—it comes soon enough." -- Albert Einstein


1. Editor's Note: Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Your Computer

After over 20 years in No Man's Land, it seems like speech recognition is finally finding its groove: telephone-based customer service.

It's certainly true that speech recognition has a devoted user base, especially among differently abled workers. The technology has long helped those who aren't able to see their computer screens well or at all, and so rely on speech recognition to read a Web site for them, or help input a word processing document. It has also proven useful for people with repetitive stress injuries and other people unable to use a keyboard and mouse.

As much of a boon as it's been to the disabled community and the co-workers, customers, and partners who benefit from these individuals' skills, speech recognition has never really achieved the type of mass-market promise that manufacturers have, well, talked about. The last time I wrote anything in-depth about speech recognition was in 1984, for InformationWeek when I worked here as a cub reporter just learning about the tech industry. (Sorry, I can't give you a Web link for something that far back; you're just going to have to trust me on this one.)

Back then, the dream was of cubicles full of white-collar workers all talking into their computers—in other words, many, if not all of us, would use speech as the user interface of choice in the not-too-distant future.

Turns out that scene from The Jetsons didn't come to pass for technical as well as practical reasons. First, the software typically needs a training period to get used to a given person's speech patterns and cadence. Any two people, even of the same generation and from the same geographic region, will pronounce words a bit differently, and the software needs its owner to read through fairly hefty a list of words, at least twice, to understand when that person says "girl" versus "pearl."

In fairness, I must point out that our most recent review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking found it does reduce the amount of training required. Another colleague agreed this package has made strides.

Still, the accuracy rate just isn't that great, as anyone who's wrestled with "customer service" telephone systems can attest. My personal favorite is when you call the main switchboard number and get one of those verbal employee directories. Nine times out of 10, I get the wrong person and have to call back three times to figure out how to reach an operator. (System: "Please speak the name of the employee you wish to talk to." Me: "Tony Danza." System: "You selected John Smith. Please hold while I connect you.")

The relatively few times speech-driven telephony has worked for me have been perfectly efficient, I must say. But it just doesn't work too often. So given this experience, I read with some skepticism about how Microsoft and IBM are now competing to tie voice recognition in with their other applications--Office, in Microsoft's case, and WebSphere, in IBM's.

Perhaps it will be a stroke of genius to link voice recognition into established IT apps, or perhaps it will be one more piece of bloatware IT doesn't really want to have to deal with.

In either case, Microsoft's recent embarrassment with its speech demo in front of a roomful of financial analysts seems to prove my point. The system wrote "Dear Aunt" when the presenter said, "Dear Mom."

And one other note of interest: Nuance, which makes Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and Microsoft both recently promised to work with the GetHuman project, which has established a database of secret phone numbers and codes that enable callers to skip directly to a human when they call customer service.

What do you think? Is there a place for speech recognition in today's customer service organizations, and how do you feel about supporting it from an IT standpoint? To read more about this, or to comment, please see my blog entry.

Johanna Ambrosio
jambrosio@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com


2. Today's Top Story

Hackers Exploit Windows 'MS06-040' Security Vulnerability
This past weekend, security companies detected two variants and said once installed the bots were able to control AOL Instant Messenger if it was present on the compromised computer.

Related Story:

Microsoft Issues Advisory About MS06-040 Attack
The advisory, titled "Exploit Code Published Affecting the Server Service," spells out Microsoft's stance on the Server service bug outlined in security bulletin MS06-040.


3. Breaking News

U.K. Authorities Loosen Airline Laptop Restrictions
For some flights from the U.K., passengers are still allowed to carry only clear plastic bags with tickets, identification, and wallets. But most flights allow small bags as long as they're free of cosmetics, toiletries, liquids, and sharp objects.

No SA 'Make Goods' From Microsoft, Says Gartner
The research company urges Microsoft to accommodate corporations that bought into its Software Assurance program with the expectation of being able to upgrade free to the next version of Office and Windows. For many clients, those versions are expected to ship after their SA plan expires.

Intel To Winnow Pentium D Dual-Core Lineup
The chipmaker is taking an axe to four older Pentium D processors in the wake of the recent launch of its Core 2 Duo family.

Grid Computing Doubles Capability Of Hurricane Research
The project is also a test bed for IBM's Power-based servers and their ability to work with open-source Globus.org software in a heterogeneous grid used by a large number of organizations.

Storage Guru Predicts Major Changes In Technology
One of the newest technologies, RAID 6, will definitely help from a business continuity perspective, an independent consultant said at a recent conference. But it has the side effect of increasing the number of reads and writes for a drive by 50%, which adds to the wear over time.

Q&A: Pat Moorhead, Advanced Micro Devices
Mobile PCs are more integrated than desktops, Moorhead said in an interview with Computer Reseller News, a fact that plays into the company's ATI acquisition. "When you look at our ability to more tightly integrate the design, validation, firmware, and software tools, it leads to a much better stable image platform," Moorhead says.

Oracle Refreshes PeopleSoft CRM Software
CRM 9 offers usability enhancements and tighter links to Oracle's Fusion middleware.

How To Build A High-Class Media PC With Antec's Fusion Media Center Case
If you're a true media fan and a do-it-yourself technogeek, you don't want to buy some ugly tower whitebox PC. Here's how to build a top-of-the-line system in a really snazzy case.

Go Daddy Only The Latest Tech IPO Flop
Ten tech IPOs, worth about $900 million, have been withdrawn so far this year. All but one blamed "market conditions."

Security Spec Near For Burning Downloaded Movies To DVDs
In general, the technology encrypts DVD content to prevent it from being copied to another disk.

Open-Source E-Mail Options Expanding
Scalix, Lotus Notes, Open-Xchange, and Zimbra have announcements or upgrades planned for this week's LinuxWorld expo.

Integration For Real People
These step-by-step guidelines will help managers and users drill across disparate databases.

All Our Latest News

Watch The News Show

In the current episode:

John Soat With 'IT Ain't News'
Sixty percent of Oracle users rely on some sort of open-source software, second-hand hard drives still contain private data, and Betonsports closes its U.S. operations.

Eric Chabrow With 'The IT Services Economy'
IT services companies created more than 10% of all new jobs last month.

Aaron Ricadela With 'Dell's Design Chops'
Dell hires a former Apple design executive to revamp the look of Dell products.


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Increasing customer satisfaction is a key business priority for three out of five companies, as reported in this recent InformationWeek Research report, "Priorities 3Q 2006." Use this report to compare your business priorities with those of 300 of your peers, and examine budgeting plans and technology initiatives on tap for the remainder of 2006.

A Week's Worth Of Dailies—All In One Place
Have you missed an issue or two of the InformationWeek Daily? Or want to check out some recent quotes of the day? Check out our Daily newsletter archive page and get caught up quickly.

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4. Grab Bag

Microsoft: Build Your Own Xbox Game (BetaNews)
Microsoft plans to open up its Xbox 360 game development platform to the masses with the launch of XNA Game Studio Express, due out during the holiday season. Anyone with a Windows XP computer would be able to use the software, available for an annual $99 fee.

The Rotary Cellular Phone: The Ultimate In Retro Low-Tech Chic (Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine)
The Portable Rotary Cellular Phone is a fully functional, rotary-dial home telephone from the '60s—except when you put your SIM card inside, it becomes a mobile phone. Perhaps the best aspect of all is that incoming calls ring the original loud, gong-style metal bells, making it ideal to put on the bar next to you when you're wishing to make your presence felt in a public place.

The Subway With Ease (Government Technology)
The agency that runs New York's subways is hoping a new RFID-based payment system being piloted will cut down on lines and cranky riders.

Chipped Passports Coming Monday (Wired News)
The new U.S. passports will include a chip that contains all the data contained in the paper version—name, birth date, and gender, for example—and can be read by electronic scanners at equipped airports. The State Department says they will speed up going through customs and help enhance border security.


5. In Depth: E-Business

AOL Search-Term Data Was Anonymous, But Not Innocuous
Pressure rises for better ways of managing Web usage data, but conflicting interests will make agreement hard to come by.

Microsoft Opens Beta On WYSIWYG Blog-Writing Tool
Windows Live Writer lets bloggers see what their post will look like before publishing it.

New Gecko-Based Browser Debuts
The Firefox knock-off browser promises to start faster and consume fewer PC resources.

Google Adds Video Link To Home Page
The new link is part of a reshuffle in which Google dropped links to its search engines for books, discussion groups, and shopping, placing them in a dropdown box instead.

AOL Buys Userplane To Expand IM Ad Network
The move is part of the company's shift to an ad-supported Web portal and away from its base of paid subscribers to its online communities.


6. Voice Of Authority

Blinded By The Glare Of Facial Piercings At Black Hat (Or, The One That Got Away)
Larry Greenemeier tells the back story about how he almost let last week's Big Story about the newest Cisco vulnerability get away.


7. White Papers

Improve Marketing, Sales, And Service Processes
In today's extremely competitive Internet economy, it's more important than ever for companies to fully embrace new technology to optimize their business processes. Find out how TechExcel's CRM incorporates the "Active Customer" model for the three core business groups—employees, customers, and partners.


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