Microsoft buys Tellme Networks

Plans to expand speech-recognition tools

Microsoft Corp. announced that it is in the process of acquiring Tellme Networks Inc., a privately owned company based in Mountain View, Calif., that specializes in speech-recognition technologies.

The terms of the deal have not been made public, but estimates by analysts have ranged from $800 million to more than $1 billion.

If Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is keeping mum about how much it paid in the deal, however, the company is saying a lot about its plans for the speech-recognition technologies Tellme Networks has been developing.

In a conference call on March 14, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business Division, said the acquisition will speed the company's development of speech-recognition technologies into a wide range of products.

"People are on the go, they want to use their mobile devices, they want that productivity experience to carry over to that," said Raikes. "They want the ability to use voice as a way to interface there, whether it is to access information, or whether to connect with colleagues. And so we are going to look very broadly at how we can extend the great work that [Tellme Networks has] done more broadly in the Microsoft product line."

In fact, Microsoft has already been implementing its own speech-recognition technologies in a variety of products, including Windows Vista and Exchange Server. But Raikes made it clear that Microsoft is intent on expanding the role for speech recognition, especially for its search tools.

"The research that we looked at ' suggests that more than 35 percent of mobile search users would be more likely to use search if voice were added," Raikes said. "We think of that as extending even beyond the mobile environment: how you interact with your television, how you interact with your automobile, how you interact with other computing devices."

And while Microsoft may incorporate some current Tellme Networks products, Raikes intimated that the acquisition may be more about securing the existing client base and the development expertise resident at Tellme Networks.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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