The acquisition will clearly benefit Microsoft's online service offerings but we should also expect the technology to enhance the portfolio of products within the UCG team as well (e.g., OCS 2007, Speech Server et. al.). Timing is good as well, building on news out of the VoiceCon conference.
Some highlights from the media briefing:
- Jeff Raikes (president of the Microsoft Business Division) and Mike McCue (co-founder and CEO of Tellme)
- Extends story around software + services
- Platform for large Microsoft developer community to build voice-enabled applications
- Helps Microsoft expand hosted options for unified communications
- Voice is a powerful interface - cites some examples of picking up the phone and asking for a sports score etc.
- Q&A (my paraphrasing, not a transcript)
- Revenues: TellMe is profitable, 1 in 3 Americans use TellMe and never know it
- UC integration: Additive to what Microsoft has already, enhances technology portfolio - view VoIP and speech recognition as a key aspect to business productivity
- Acquisition wave: Microsoft always looking for great companies, this acquisition will help multiple business units
- Overlap with Speech Server: Lots of efforts within Microsoft involved with speech but TellMe is #1 as a hosted services platform for speech solutions used my millions of people every month - real world experience, scalability, development history, etc. 10 billion speech utterances to the TellMe platform last year, processed 2 billion calls last year (per Mike).
- TellMe Speech Recognizer: Will integrate Microsoft's technology but looking at all the different angles and synergies that will result from the acquisition.
- VoiceXML: TellMe remains committed to VoiceXML. Continue to work through the W3C.
- Voice Dialing: TellMe technology will help UC endpoints re: voice recognition.
- Speech Server Developer Advice: Will need to rationalize APIs and interfaces, should not take more than a few months to get a roadmap out that helps developers bridge the hosted and on-premise technologies
- Importance To Mobile Division: A key attraction for Microsoft was the mobile search support TellMe offers. TellMe partners with many carriers, combined with Microsoft will create additional competitive differential
- Speaker Recognition (Security): Voice verification still somewhat early from a TellMe perspective but lots of potential given Microsoft research ongoing in this area.
- Clarification on VoiceCon Prediction: 100 million office users will be enabled to do click-to-call - TellMe enhances that overall direction, communication enabled business processes are a perfect TellMe "fit".
Microsoft to Acquire Tellme Networks
Combined expertise will bring the power of voice technology to everyday life.
REDMOND, Wash. — March 14, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced it will acquire Tellme Networks, Inc., a leading provider of voice services for everyday life, including nationwide directory assistance, enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search. Microsoft and Tellme share a vision around the potential of speech as a way to enable access to information, locate other people and enhance business processes, any time and from any device. Combining Tellme’s talented people and expertise in high-volume voice services with Microsoft’s platform, resources and worldwide customer reach will inspire new and innovative solutions.
“Speech is universal, simple and holds incredible promise as a key interface for computing,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Tellme brings to Microsoft the talent, technology and proven experience in speech that will enable us to deliver a new wave of products and revolutionize human-computer interaction.”
Tellme is a leader in voice services for the phone, including its popular mobile search services on 1-800-555-TELL. Founded in 1999, the privately held company answers millions of calls every day for information such as finding local businesses, driving directions, sports scores, stock quotes, weather, news, movie show times and more. Businesses use Tellme’s voice services and platform to provide customers with voice-access services ranging from banking to package tracking. These services are built on Tellme’s voice platform that analyzes caller requests to continually improve the system’s accuracy and overall caller experience.
Potential areas of development resulting from the deal will range from hosted voice-enabled customer service solutions that complement Microsoft’s existing unified communications offerings to voice user interfaces in existing Microsoft products to search services on mobile phones that integrate with Live Search for mobile offerings. In addition, developers and partners will be able to build new speech-based solutions on top of a scalable, standards-based voice-enabled applications platform.
“We’ve made great strides in speech technologies, but have only scratched the surface of what is possible,” said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. “The acquisition of Tellme will bolster Microsoft’s existing speech capabilities, bringing both immediate and longer-term value to our customers and partners.”