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Microsoft Talks Up Speech Server 2004

MSS is based on SALT (speech application language tags) language, rather than the VoiceXML standard for integrating text and speech web application interfaces. Microsoft claims that SALT will simplify the development of interactive applications that share common application code, while supporting the different voice/visual interface requirements of multi-modal user devices.

Like other disruptive technologies, this announcement will cause enterprise organizations to think twice about migrating from their present speech-oriented application tools to accommodate converged application interfaces. Not only do we see this announcement as breaking price barriers for speech-enabled applications in the relatively "greenfields" SMB market, but its practical exploitation of multimodal SALT will help push the market towards multi-modal user interfaces for many on-line applications.

Your Father's IVR

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has long been the bastion of telephone-based applications, primarily to support call center activities with "front-ends" to identify a caller for selectively routing the call and generating "screen-pop" information to a live agent and, perhaps more importantly, to provide self-service applications via a Telephone User Interface (TUI).

The notorious TUI IVR speech menus ("press one for...") left much to be desired in terms of flexibility and time efficiency, and the proprietary platforms, speech cards, and complex design tools made IVR an expensive proposition for enterprise application implementation and ongoing maintenance. That's why it found some degree of success primarily in conjunction with larger enterprise call centers.

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