SAN FRANCISCO, March 24, 2004 — Microsoft Corp. today took another step forward in its strategy to make the business value of speech technology more broadly available to mainstream enterprise companies as Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates launched Microsoft®
Speech Server 2004 at the co-located AVIOS~SpeechTEK Spring 2004, Microsoft Mobile Developer Conference (DevCon) 2004 and Fawcette Technical Publications’ VSLive! San Francisco 2004 events. Speaking to an audience of more than 4,000 during his keynote address, Gates spoke about the developer opportunities and business value Speech Server will enable, which analysts say will change the industry dynamic.
Immediately following Gates’ keynote, Kai-Fu Lee, corporate vice president for the Microsoft Speech Server product group, will take the stage at the AVIOS~SpeechTEK portion of the conference to detail Microsoft’s efforts in speech technology and demonstrate real-world customer and partner applications based on Speech Server.
“For years now, this technology has been accessible only to a short list of Fortune 500 companies because it has been so difficult and expensive to implement,” Lee said. “Both large and midsize companies need a lower cost of entry and lower total cost of ownership. A key value of Speech Server is to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of developing and deploying speech applications, making the technology more accessible to a broader range of enterprise customers. This is a Microsoft value proposition that we’re delivering today with Microsoft Speech Server 2004 and the broad ecosystem of partners that provide complete solutions, integration services and a variety of other services for customers.”
Microsoft is breaking new ground in the speech industry by becoming the first company to offer a single platform that combines Web technologies, speech-processing services and telephony capabilities. The Speech Server enables companies to unify their Web and telephony infrastructure and extend existing or new ASP.NET Web applications for speech-enabled access from telephones, mobile phones, Pocket PCs and Smartphones.
“Microsoft Speech Server will have a major impact on the automated telephone applications market this year,” said William Meisel, president of TMA Associates, an independent speech industry consulting firm. “It is a low-cost, integrated solution particularly enticing for those enterprises that are already using Windows Server (TM) 2003 and Visual Studio®
.NET 2003 development tools.”
Microsoft Speech Server: Helping Customers Achieve Success
Signifying customer excitement for Microsoft Speech Server, Lee will be joined on stage at the AVIOS~SpeechTEK conference by representatives from Grange Insurance, the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) and Southwest Alabama Integrated Criminal Justice System (SAICS), who will demonstrate their experience with Speech Server-based applications.
Grange’s customer service representatives handle a large number of calls per day that primarily concern basic billing details. Implementing a Microsoft Speech Server-based customer self-service application, Grange has automated the handling of routine customer requests, such as “Did you get my payment?” “When is my payment due?” and “How much do I owe on my policy?” Grange contracted with TATA Consultancy Services, a Microsoft Global System Integrator, to develop the full-access 24×7 speech-recognition application. The application is increasing customer satisfaction by providing callers with more readily available self-service options. It also is enabling agents and customer service representatives to increase their overall productivity and focus their time on personalized service for more complex issue resolution. Grange expects to offload 20 percent of its routine calls to the Microsoft Speech Server application and reduce call center operational costs by 16 percent on a recurring annual basis.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have made parent involvement in their children’s education a priority and are committed to leveraging technology to meet this goal. To meet this commitment, the NYC DOE is working with Microsoft and InterVoice Inc. to develop a voice-enabled telephony application for parents to check such things as their child’s attendance record, course grades and daily lunch menus. The NYC DOE was compelled by Microsoft Speech Server because it enabled the department to leverage an already existing interface developed for the department’s Web site and provide the information via speech technology.
“The unique value of Microsoft Speech Server is that because it is part of the .NET Framework we don’t have to rewrite programs that have been written to access and display information via the Web. We also don’t need to hire programmers to specifically and solely write speech applications,” said Richard Langford, deputy chief information officer for the New York City Department of Education. “Student attendance is one of the factors that have been shown to directly impact learning. This is obvious; you have to be in class to learn the material. We hope that by making it easy for parents to hear how often their child is not in class, we can have a significant impact on the education that students are going to receive.”
Another customer, SAICS, has worked with Microsoft Speech Server partner ComputerTalk to develop a speech-enabled law enforcement application that enables police officers to access driver’s license, social security and license plate data over the phone via a direct voice query. The application transmits data verbally and visually for devices that support multimodal applications. The ability to have a hands-free, dispatcher-independent environment is essential for police. This application enables SAICS law enforcement officers to do their jobs in a much more efficient, safe and secure manner.
Additional customers benefiting from Speech Server are Covance Inc., Landstar System Inc., Talbots Inc., Valassis Communications Inc. and Woodforest National Bank. These companies are among the more than 20 enterprise customers moving to deploy production-level applications on Microsoft Speech Server.
Not only are external customers announcing their support for Microsoft’s efforts in speech technology, Microsoft also is leveraging the power of Speech Server. Microsoft is currently rolling out a Speech Server-based auto-attendant system called MS Connect. The new system reduces call-center traffic by providing callers with fast and accurate calling access to any of the 50,000 Microsoft employees through a speech-enabled application, rather than resorting to a human operator. The system also increases employee productivity and lowers costs by handling most routine calls, enabling call center employees to focus on more productive tasks.
Growing Microsoft Speech Partner Ecosystem: Delivering Business Value
Complementing Microsoft’s long-standing relationships with Intel Corp., InterVoice and ScanSoft Inc., the Microsoft Speech Server Partner Program now boasts more than 60 companies that provide prepackaged applications and services to customers implementing Microsoft Speech Server. Partners joining Lee on stage at AVIOS~SpeechTEK will include Accenture, Solar Software and Voice Automation Inc.; representatives from these companies will demonstrate their applications and services for Microsoft Speech Server. Accenture will demonstrate speech-enabled telephony and multimodal commerce solutions; Solar Software will demonstrate a voice-enabled IT administrator and Help Desk automation solution based on Windows® networks and Active Directory®
; and Voice Automation will demonstrate a speech-enabled Microsoft customer relationship management application.
Additional Microsoft Speech Server offerings provided by partners include speech-enabled call-center, banking and sales force automation applications. Partner services for Microsoft Speech Server include hardware and software configuration, telephony support, voice user interface (VUI) design and optimization services, and voice talent. More information about the breadth of prepackaged applications and services Microsoft Speech Partners are announcing today can be found online at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2003/msspeech/partner.asp
Speech Development Tools: Making Speech-Enabling Applications Fast and Easy
Microsoft speech development tools integrate seamlessly into Visual Studio .NET and enable programmers to quickly and easily add speech into their Web applications using the standard programming paradigm they use for any other Web application. To date, Microsoft empowers more than 73,000 developers to build high-quality applications with the Speech Server development tools.
Matt Hempey, an ASP.NET software developer at Vertigo Software Corp., commented on his experiences with the speech development tools. “Simple and rapid application development is easily the most exciting thing about the speech development tools,” Hempey said. “Microsoft has spent years making ASP.NET an extremely user-friendly and powerful development platform for the Web. With these tools, Microsoft has completely leveraged that power and ease of use for building speech-enabled applications, with a minimal learning curve for Visual Studio developers.”
Microsoft Speech Server, part of the Windows Server System (TM) family of products, is available for U.S. English only in Standard and Enterprise editions to enable partners and customers to build and deploy applications that meet their business needs. The product has been tested under rigorous call conditions, far exceeding existing industry solution performance parameters. Microsoft Speech Server was tested in an average-sized call center’s call volume for three years without failure, with 95 percent of calls having a user-perceived latency of less than 1.5 seconds. This compares with current industry solutions for such tests having 80 percent of calls with user-perceived latency of under 2.5 seconds. Finally, current industry standards for successfully completed calls via an automated speech system track at an 80 percent success rate; Speech Server performance is at a 95 percent successful call completion rate.
Unlike existing proprietary speech solutions, Microsoft Speech Server also brings standard mainstream server feature sets to speech technology. Both product editions come complete with the following:
Integrated platform encompassing a Microsoft enterprise-grade speech-recognition engine, telephony platform, voice browser and ScanSoft Speechify text-to-speech engine; and also supporting the Scansoft OpenSpeech Recognizer engine
Tools, including speech development tools integrated into Visual Studio .NET 2003 for application design, coding, debugging and tuning
Application support for dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF), speech + DTMF and multimodal (mixed speech and visual) applications
Scalability to provide unlimited scale and load balancing across and within nodes
Manageability, including an integrated Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), performance and event monitoring, and an application deployment wizard
Reliable, fault-tolerant architecture, fail-over support and call isolation
Security designed for secure network communication, application execution and services execution
Infrastructure integration supporting Computer Telephone Integration (CTI) and private branch exchange (PBX) integration for telephony networks, as well as ASP.NET and Windows Server 2003 integration
Reporting features, including a detailed reporting tool for business analysis and technical application tuning analysis
The estimated retail price for Microsoft Speech Server 2004 Standard Edition is $7,999 per processor. The estimated retail price for Microsoft Speech Server 2004 Enterprise Edition is $17,999 per processor.
Future Road Map for Speech Server
While Microsoft’s 10-year investment in speech technology has come to life with the launch of Speech Server, the research and innovation don’t end there. Customers can look forward to increased language coverage, further enhanced natural language support and speech recognition for embedded devices. In addition, Microsoft is refining Speech Server feature requirements specific to telecommunication carrier needs. An example of this is Microsoft’s work with Huawei Technologies Company Ltd., the leading provider of carrier-grade telecommunications solutions in China. Microsoft is working to enable future versions of Microsoft Speech Server to serve both the enterprise and telecommunication carrier customers.
Additional information about Microsoft Speech Server can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/speech/
“In 2003, growth returned to speech recognition with enterprise sales increasing by 23 percent,” said Steve Cramoysan, principal analyst with Gartner Inc. “We expect the industry to grow strongly during 2004, due to continued pressure on call center operations to be competitive, increased awareness of the role of speech solutions to achieve this and deliver benefits across the enterprise, and a broader supply of proven speech solution modules, which reduce the costs and risks for companies.”
About Windows Server System
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