Mark Plakais of the Zelos Group called me earlier this year and asked, 'Okay, John, let me see if you can get your head around what I am about to say to you.' With that comment Mark proceeded to summarize his discussions with solutions providers and customers about the growing number of tools and development environments available today to deploy speech. As we continued to discuss his thoughts we determined that a vehicle for showcasing the current art in application development seemed ripe. And soon afterward, the Zelos Group and Speech Technology Magazine had teamed up to host The Speech Solutions CHALLENGE at SpeechTEK 2003. THE CHALLENGE is designed to focus and highlight the role that tools and application development products and services play in voice enabling enterprise applications. Under the watchful eyes of a team of judges and SpeechTEK attendees, the teams will demonstrate how their products and services make speech solutions faster and cheaper to create and deploy. The central objective of this exercise is to demonstrate that speech can be built faster and cheaper than today's average IT executive realizes. THE CHALLENGE is not a beauty contest, but a market outreach and education exercise that will definitely be fun while creating interesting content for SpeechTEK conference attendees. We will create an environment that will put pressure on each of the teams to produce a successful speech application in only SIX hours. THE CHALLENGE begins at 8:30 on Monday and SpeechTEK and VOX conference attendees can observe each of the teams as they compete throughout the day. As an added bonus representatives of each team will be available to explain their work as it progresses during the six hour exercise. Each application will be available for public use during EXPO hours beginning Tuesday, September 30, during the opening reception of SpeechTEK. We are excited about THE CHALLENGE and believe you will be impressed by what these teams can produce. Speaking of Mark, his column this month discusses how to exponentially grow the speech marketplace. His theories offer four compelling strategies for growing the market beyond the place it is today. Steve Ehrlich reviews packaged applications solutions for speech. Steve discusses the theory of applications backlog introduced by James Martin in his 1981 book "Application Development Without Programmers." This article outlines what we attempt to prove with the Speech Solutions CHALLENGE at SpeechTEK. I believe several other articles really stand out in this issue. Susan Hara outlines the types of testing that are generally available and important tips and techniques for getting the most out of your speech application using the tests. We provide nine companies that can assist you in your testing needs. Nancy Jamison reviews speech's growing role in workforce productivity in the warehouse environment. Nancy looks at the growing trend to provide workers with productive speech driven tools. Caroline Henton once again contributes an outstanding 'how to' article, this time focused on TTS for voice-automated directory assistance and information and spoken directions in vehicles. Caroline's article is chock-full of very helpful tips and techniques for improving your TTS accuracy. We always have requests from readers wanting to know, 'Will my customers use speech?' and on page 40 Karen Chiarelli, a senior research director of Harris Interactive, provides analysis of her recent research. Among her findings are that customers look upon companies that use speech as 'progressive,' 'contemporary' and 'innovative.' These characteristics are very much in line with research the magazine conducted last year (2002-2003 Speech Solutions Consumer Acceptance Study, by Speech Technology Magazine and Michelson and Associates). Gene Cox, director of Pervasive Computing at IBM, contributes a feature about how speech technology companies are beginning to deliver on their promise of fast return on investment (ROI). There are a number of great, real-world examples in Gene's story. And finally, we are constructing our editorial calendar for next year and would very much like to hear your thoughts on content that matters to you. Please send me an e-mail - john@amcommpublications.com - and tell me what you want to read in Speech Technology Magazine for 2004. PS The participating teams as of August 27, 2003 for the Speech Solutions CHALLENGE are: TuVox, Intervoice, VoiceObjects, Edify and teams comprised of Newfound Communications/ScanSoft/Vocalocity and Angel.com/Comverse/VoicePartners. For more information please visit www.speechtek.com. Good luck and let THE CHALLENGE begin!

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