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Microsoft Buys Speech Vendor Tellme

Microsoft on Wednesday acquired Tellme Networks, Inc., which specializes in speech recognition and the integration of voice and data, technologies that may play a central role in Microsoft's Unified Communications and collaboration initiatives.

Tellme Networks offers a range of voice services common to "everyday life," according to company officials, including nationwide directory assistance, enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search.

In a press conference earlier today Microsoft executives said the deal could result in a wide range of development projects ranging from hosted voice-enabled customer service solutions that complement the company's unified communications products, to voice user interfaces in existing Microsoft products, to search services on mobile phones that could integrate with Live Search.

"We fundamentally see voice as a way to improve the way people interact with productivity software. We expect within three years that 10 million people will be enabled to do click to call from within their applications such as Office," said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division.

Currently, businesses use Tellme's voice services and platform to offer voice-access services ranging from banking to package tracking. These services are built on Tellme's voice platform that is capable of analyzing caller requests in order to improve the system's accuracy and overall experience.

"We see this (deal) as Dial Tone 2.0. The phone has been relatively unchanged in decades, you still pick it up and have to type in a bunch of numbers to get someone. We think that when you pick up a phone, it should ask you what you want to do, and then you tell it want you want," said Mike McCue, Tellme's co-founder and CEO.

Officials from both companies said Tellme's technology would be made available both as a voice platform where application developers and service providers can build a wide range of products and services for existing and new offerings, and as a hosted service.

Financial terms of the agreement were not revealed. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year's second quarter. Tellme, with 320 employees, is based in Mountain View, Ca. and will become part of the Microsoft Business Division.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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