• November 1, 2007
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Microsoft Finds the First Client for Its Tellme Technology

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U.S. wireless carrier Sprint-Nextel has introduced a mobile search application for its phones that uses GPS technology to pinpoint a caller’s location, thereby eliminating the need to input locations or ZIP codes.

Sprint-Nextel also now offers users of five high-end phones a free download of a voice-recognition search product from Microsoft that lets them use voice commands to conduct their searches. It is the first offering from a wireless carrier to use the Live Search for Mobile speech technology and voice database that Microsoft acquired when it bought Tellme Networks earlier this year for about $800 million.

The voice search offering, available since September, allows users to press the talk button on their mobile phones to speak a search term into the handset. Once the information is gathered, the results presented will include directions, the ability to press a button to call the business, and the option to send directions to the location to a friend as a text message. The voice application will be available to Sprint-Nextel users of the Samsung a900, Samsung a920, Motorola Razr, Sanyo 840, and LG 550 phones.

As part of the strategic alliance that Sprint and Microsoft formed in November 2006, Sprint-Nextel customers will have access to the Internet to conduct their searches. With the enhanced mobile search service, Sprint customers can now search the entire Web, local listings, maps, and Sprint’s mobile content catalog using the familiar search box powered by Windows Live Search on the Sprint mobile Web home page.

The GPS-enabled search option allows users’ phones to automatically identify their locations and return nearby business search results, such as the closest gas station, pizza place, or movie theater. Users simply type in or say the name or category of business for which they are searching.

"With Live Search on Sprint devices, Sprint customers now carry with them a GPS-enabled search tool providing open Internet search, local listing search, and mobile content search, all in one easy service," says Kevin Peckingham, vice president of product management at Sprint. He notes that Sprint customers spent an average of $9.75 per month on wireless data services.

"The location-based and voice technologies we’re delivering today with Sprint are a first in the U.S. mobile industry, bringing customers a smart and easy search experience on the phone," says Brian Arbogast, vice president of the Mobile Services Organization at Microsoft. "We are focused on working with industry leaders like Sprint to bring new and innovative services to market for customers, and creating new business and revenue opportunities for our partners."

The service will be free to Sprint data subscribers on most data-enabled Sprint phones. The carrier and Microsoft are looking to pay for the service with targeted advertising, hoping to tap into the more than $14 million in annual U.S. revenue for advertiser-sponsored directory assistance. That figure, according to a recent announcement from The Kelsey Group, is expected to reach $462 million by 2012.

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