Microsoft Releases Tools That Will Enable Mainstream Developers To Add Speech to Web Applications

SAN JOSE, CA - At the AVIOS Speech Expo, Microsoft Corp. announced the beta release of the Microsoft .NET Speech Software Development Kit (SDK), a Web developer tool and product deployment based on the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) specification. The SDK integrates into the Visual Studio .NET development environment and will make it faster and easier for Web developers to incorporate speech functionality into Web applications and create new business opportunities by leveraging their existing Web development knowledge and skills. "The Microsoft .NET Speech SDK is a major breakthrough for the industry," said Brian Strachman, senior analyst for Voice Applications at Cahners In-Stat Group. "Expensive, proprietary speech systems have kept speech application development to a niche market. Now, millions of Web developers will be able to draw upon their programming skills to add speech functionality to Web applications, opening up opportunities for enterprises to develop new offerings and extend their Web investments to a larger customer base." The .NET Speech SDK is a set of SALT-based speech application development tools and speech controls that integrate with Visual Studio .NET. It is the first speech toolkit to integrate with a Web server programming environment, Microsoft ASP.NET. The SALT specification, currently under development by a diverse group of industry leaders including Microsoft, defines a lightweight set of extensions to familiar Web markup languages, in particular HTML and XHTML, that will enable multimodal and telephony access to information, applications and Web services from PCs, telephones, cellular phones, Tablet PCs and wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs). The specification is slated to be released to an international standards body by midyear 2002. "Microsoft is committed to bringing speech into the mainstream by making it a more accessible, easier-to-implement technology," said Eric Rudder, senior vice president of Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft. "The .NET Speech SDK is an indispensable tool for Web developers seeking to speech-enable their applications and offer new value-added Web services." The .NET Speech SDK, which will ship this week, will allow developers to write combined speech and visual Web applications in a single code base that is easy to maintain and modify, and test those applications at their workstation. It includes tools for debugging and creating simple and robust grammars and prompts, as well as sample applications and tutorials. It also includes a set of SALT-based ASP.NET controls that will allow developers to add speech capabilities into their HTML and XHTML Web applications. The .NET Speech SDK will ship with speech extensions for Microsoft Internet Explorer browser software, effectively extending Internet Explorer to support both speech and visual input and output, as well as a desktop version of Microsoft's new speech recognition engine and a test-level version of the Microsoft TTS engine. The .NET Speech SDK version 1.0 beta is the first-to-market product of Microsoft's planned software offerings for speech-enabling Web applications, which will include a unified telephony and multimodal speech platform, enabling enterprises to deploy large-scale Web-based applications and broaden the reach of their Web services. Microsoft's speech technologies are based on the SALT specification and are designed to expand and enable Web-based speech applications for the broad market. "Microsoft's commitment to the SALT specification and to making speech a mainstream technology is evidenced by its deployment of the .NET Speech SDK, the industry's first developer tool based on the SALT specification," said Steve Chambers, chief marketing officer at SpeechWorks International Inc. - a SALT Forum founder. "The SALT Forum is focused on delivering a unified standard for telephony and multimodal Web application development, and fully supports Microsoft's leadership and demonstrated commitment to providing the software necessary for authoring speech-enabled Web applications that will be accessible to millions of developers." The .NET Speech SDK will help developers create speech-enabled Web applications that will translate into a host of new business benefits and opportunities. With SALT-based speech technology integrated into existing or new Web investments, enterprises will be able to do the following:
  • Reduce the cost of building and deploying speech-enabled IVR systems by employing standard Web techniques
  • Extend telephony applications by building and maintaining a common user interface layer for GUI-only access, speech combined with GUI access and telephone-only access
  • Leverage existing Web infrastructure and investments to expand services offerings and generate new business opportunities
  • Augment their customer base by allowing anyone with a telephone, PC or mobile device to access Web-based information and services
  • Improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction
The SDK can be ordered from Microsoft's Web site at www.microsoft.com/speech/stmag
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