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Speech-enabled handheld computers could add a new dimension to government use of mobile technology. But that will require a change in a standard.

Existing programs for handheld computers use Extensible Markup Language, designed for speech-only applications running over a telephone. Speech application language tags, or SALT, can use natural-language processing to enhance the function of applications in mobile devices.

Microsoft has released a beta version of its speech software developer kit that supports SALT. For updates, see the SALT Forum at www.saltforum.org. Last month, the forum published the SALT specification version 1.0, which provides a full definition of the standard.

According to the forum, the SALT specification is designed to work equally well on regular and handheld computers, digital imaging devices, telematics devices such as in-car navigation systems and mobile phones.

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