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Oracle Snaps Up Voice Portal Assets

Oracle Corp. moved to beef up its voice portal offerings Tuesday when it agreed to pick up the assets of Indicast Corp. for an undisclosed sum.

The Redwood Shores, Calif. software maker said it picked up the privately-held, San Diego-based firm to help it provide carrier and enterprise customers with voice and wireless access to any Internet application, enterprise data or enterprise application. Voice portals, or "vortals" are Web site or services that a user can reach by telephone for key information.

Specifically, the Indicast assets will be offered to customers as a hosted service. Eventually, the company will bundle the technology into future versions of its Oracle9i Application Server, which is currently in its second version. Oracle also expects the Indicast technology to accelerate the voice capability within the Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Online Services such as my.oracle.com.

The move is the next step in Oracle's strategy to provide voice technology across all product lines, announced this past August. In early December, the firm extended wireless and voice application support for voice access to Internet applications, wireless messaging, wireless security, mobile e-mail, location-based services and support for 2.5G and 3G networks.

Noting that the integration of voice capabilities within software applications is key, David Berndt, director of Wireless Mobile Technologies at the Yankee Group, said the deal was important to Oracle in helping it establish a solid voice portal presence.

"With the combination of Oracle9i Application Server and the Indicast voice portal technology, Oracle will have a significant advantage among software providers in its ability to offer an integrated solution for Web, wireless or voice access to data and information. This will be a real boon to customers whether they plan to provide voice access today or want to leave the door open for voice access tomorrow."

It follows then, that the acquisition and subsequent integration of Indicast assets would seem to give Oracle a boost over rival application servers made by IBM Corp. , Hewlett-Packard Co., , Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. .

As with many other technologies, analysts have long stressed convergence and integration in the voice technology arena, with such open standards as VoiceXML on the rise as the foundation for speech-oriented technologies. Indicast's assets, when used by Oracle customers, can provide such features as VoiceXML Session Enhancement, which enables continuous sessions across phone calls, data mining, advanced personalization and content tracking. Moreover, Indicast's VoiceXML voice applications can be run on any VoiceXML voice gateway.