Microsoft's Tellme Voice Service For Windows Mobile - InformationWeek
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4/29/2009
12:01 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Microsoft's Tellme Voice Service For Windows Mobile

Microsoft's Tellme subsidiary is announcing a voice service that will be available to carriers and manufacturers for free for use on Windows Mobile 6.5 this fall. Users will be able to push a button on their phone to activate the service and say things like "Text Steve Jones" and the device would open up the SMS application, create a new message and pre-address it to Steve Jones.

Microsoft's Tellme subsidiary is announcing a voice service that will be available to carriers and manufacturers for free for use on Windows Mobile 6.5 this fall. Users will be able to push a button on their phone to activate the service and say things like "Text Steve Jones" and the device would open up the SMS application, create a new message and pre-address it to Steve Jones.The service will allow much more than just that. You can say "Call Mark Smith" and the phone will initiate the call for you. If you have more than one number for him, it will ask you to specify which number (work, mobile, home, etc) to dial. If you said "Pizza in Kansas City" the service would find a pizza place in Kansas City for you through Microsoft's Live search service.

"Because it's so intuitive, we believe there is a real opportunity for voice to materialize as the leading user interface for the phone," said Dariusz Paczuski, senior director of consumer services at Tellme. "By bringing voice access to calling, texting and searching together we reduce 'menu surfing' on phones and make the convenience of voice more tangible for everyday people."

If some of this seems familiar to you, it should. Microsoft released Voice Command for Windows Mobile 5 several years ago and it has some of the same functionality. I use the "Call Mark Smith" feature almost exclusively when calling someone in my address book. It works surprisingly well, though sometimes you have to mispronounce a name for it to work correctly. For example, I have someone in my address book with the last name of Breault, but it is French and therefore pronounced "Bro". When I call him, I have to pronounce it like you would read it with an American English pronunciation.

In 2007, MS purchased Tellme and I guess they have turned over the voice recognition for Windows Mobile and other platforms over to the Tellme team.

As the press release states, this is about reducing menu surfing for the mobile phone user. Even though Voice Command supports launching apps by simply saying "Start calculator" I never got in the habit of using that feature. I am sure though that as WinMo gets more one-handed centric and the stylus becomes a thing of the past on the touch-screen devices, starting an app that way could be faster than flicking through several screens looking for it. In fact, the nice thing about launching apps this way is you don't have to be anywhere in particular on the phone. Just press the button and tell WinMo what you want to run, regardless of what is active on the screen at the time.

Even though the app is free for carriers and manufacturers, should they decide against it and use their own voice software, which often requires you to record "Call Mark Smith" first, don't worry. Microsoft will make the app available for free in the application store which will likely launch concurrently with WinMo 6.5 later this year.

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