Microsoft Speech Technologies Coming to Exchange

The speech recognition technologies Microsoft is developing around Microsoft Speech Server will be integrated into a future version of Microsoft Exchange Server, the company announced Tuesday at a speech technology conference in New York.

Microsoft portrays the logical move as part of a continued effort to make speech mainstream. By moving the technology into Exchange, Microsoft will shepherd speech technology into the horizontal market of unified messaging. Currently, Microsoft's speech technology efforts have been largely vertical, focusing on call centers and interactive voice response markets.

“We’re very excited about this partnership with Exchange and believe that offering speech-enabled unified messaging capabilities to the millions of Exchange users will go a long way to help achieve the goal of driving speech mainstream,” Rich Bray, general manager of the Speech Server group at Microsoft, said in a statement.

In its statement, Microsoft did not specify whether it would attempt to ready the technology for the next release of Exchange, the Exchange 12 release currently planned for sometime in 2006.

The most recent version of Microsoft's dedicated speech server is Microsoft Speech Server 2004 R2, which was launched in May. It allows companies to deploy telephony-only dual-tone multifrequency or touch-tone keypad applications, speech-enabled telephony applications and applications that mix speech and visual modes.

Microsoft did not indicate that MSS would be discontinued, however. In the past, Microsoft has folded niche technology servers into other more general purpose products. In the last few years, for example, Microsoft took its Mobile Information Server and split its components between Exchange Server and Internet Security & Acceleration Server.

Also Tuesday, Microsoft announced several recent customer wins, which expand Microsoft's MSS customer list to about 60 companies. New adopters of the speech platform include Fingerhut; King Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Sandia National Laboratories; and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.