SpinVox Huddles Up with IBM to Tackle Enterprise UC

London-based SpinVox, a speech-to-text (STT) provider, today went public with a new partnership that will see the company joining IBM’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Specialty program.

SpinVox will be deploying its STT as a managed service on IBM hardware—everything from servers to storage to middleware products. The move is part of SpinVox’s recent drive to build on the success it has enjoyed in the consumer market and make its way into the enterprise unified communications (UC) market.

“We’ve embraced IBM as a partner from the standpoint of building out our data center, assuring that our software-to-service offering is built around the infrastructure capabilities, intelligence, manageability of the IBM portfolio,” says Corinne Bartow, vice president of unified communications marketing for SpinVox.

She sees UC as a particularly interesting field for expansion, defining it as being not just Voice over Internet Protocol or click-to-call, but about bringing information to a user’s fingertips contextually and in the right mode.

“I think this is the crux of what’s going to enable the next level of transformation around enterprise communications, beyond the sudden migration from older technologies to IP-telephonies,” she says. “Adding value to that is our focus.”

The IBM announcement follows the launch of SpinVox’s open application programming interface (API) last week at the 2009 CTIA Wireless Conference in Las Vegas and its partnership with Avaya to transcribe voicemails—a deal that became public late last year at VoiceCon in Orlando. Bartow suggests that, in the second half of this year, there may be more.

The IBM partnership in particular is seen by SpinVox as part of an effort to enter the UC community and the IBM fold. By joining IBM’s SaaS Specialty program early, SpinVox will be able to have contact with executives and entrée to the company’s labs for testing to aid in the development of better solutions.

While IBM’s speech labs will be in contact with SpinVox’s own Cambridge University-based labs in the U.K., Bartlow seems to suggest that there won’t be cross pollination between SpinVox’s STT and IBM’s own in-house engines.

In January, IBM opened its portfolio of speech patents to Nuance Communications—a gesture that was seen by some observers as an evacuation of IBM’s position in speech. Whatever the reasons and ramifications of that deal, Bartow says it will not impact SpinVox’s partnership at all.

“That deal is significant for both IBM and Nuance, but I think some of the ways that deal has been interpreted in the press is bigger than it actually is,” she says, demurring from a more specific explanation and noting that she is not an expert.

“I see what we’re doing with IBM as being much more about partnering to ensure that our infrastructure is able to scale and grow and meet the kinds of demand we’re going to start placing on it, at least with things like opening up API to a broader market beyond our large carrier partners.”

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