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Microsoft's Communication Products Shift Sparks Mixed Reaction

Microsoft's latest move with Speech Server is a good news/bad news situation, analysts say, and it may be partners that take the bad news hit.

Microsoft Corp.'s decision to dump Speech Server as a standalone product and roll it into its flagship communications software was seen Tuesday as good news for the company's overall product portfolio, but bad news for partners.

In addition, at least one analyst said the product roadmap announced at the SpeechTEK 2006 conference in New York could hurt Microsoft's credibility among enterprise buyers.

By dropping Speech Server as an independent product and integrating it into Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft is building a stronger platform, analysts said. Speech Server would add speech recognition and text-to-speech capabilities in the unified-communications product, which is set to ship in the first quarter of next year.

"A speech interface will help Microsoft set OCS apart from a number of other unified communications platforms on the market," Brian Riggs, analyst for Current Analysis, said in an email response to a request for comment. "In general, speech integration will make OCS a much stronger platform for voice- and text-based business communications."

Avery Glasser, analyst for Opus Research Inc., agreed that OCS would be a stronger product, but warned Microsoft partners that the new roadmap was "an ecosystem changing event."

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