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SALT Forum Unlocks Membership Structure

The SALT Forum, which created the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) 1.0 specification, moved to unlock its membership Monday with a revised membership structure and organizing principles.

The move is a response to pressure from both inside the group -- which represents more than 70 technology companies interested in accelerating the use of speech technologies in multimodal and telephony systems -- and potential members.

Currently, the SALT Forum takes its guidance from a six-member board of directors made up of representatives from the founding companies: Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Intel, Comverse, Philips and SpeechWorks. The new structure creates a "Sponsor" membership class with full voting rights on the board, and grants "Contributor" members voting rights within working groups. SALT Forum said "Adopter" members will continue to have free access to materials developed by the group.

"Industry forums are often accelerants for the development of new standards and specifications, but work best when they foster strong levels of participation among their membership base," said Dan Miller, senior analyst and partner with Zelos Group. "Voting rights will give contributing members a stronger voice in shaping and honing the SALT specification."

The SALT Forum said its activities will be funded by membership fees paid by Sponsors and Contributors, though those fees may be waived in specific circumstances in order to encourage participation by small companies, distinguished individuals and educational institutions. The activities may include developing updated SALT specifications, holding seminars on SALT application development, creating code samples that illustrate SALT usage, defining SALT compliance tests to ensure component interoperability, defining capability profiles for devices that support SALT, promoting new products that incorporate SALT, and publishing case studies document best practices in deploying the specification.

The SALT specification defines a set of lightweight tags as extensions to common Web-based programming languages, allowing developers to add speech functionality to existing Web applications. The technology could allow the blind to "read" a Word document, and cell phone or PDA users to make phone calls or access the Web by voice.

The SALT Forum submitted version 1.0 of its specification to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in August.