dcsimg
RealTime IT News

Natural MicroSystems Buys Mobilee

Natural MicroSystems , a Framingham, Mass., maker of components for telecom networks, has acquired Mobilee Inc., a Boston startup that makes software to give wireless users access to the Internet.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Natural Microsystems executives reportedly said the deal is worth between $15 million and $20 million.

Mobilee was formerly known as ShoutMail, which was founded in 1998 to allow users to hear online audio content and send e-mail, with no connection to a computer or browser. A speech recognition software program "reads" the content over the phone. The Shoutmail.com service has more than 1 million users.

Its "voice portal" service gained fame and users last year when Lycos parterned with it to provide access to Lycos content over any telephone, allowing users to say "weather" or "stock update" to get updated info.

Now Mobilee employees will become a business unit of Natural MicroSystems. The companies did not say if any layoffs would result.

But virtually all of Mobilee's consumer applications will cease development (though existing customers will get ongoing support). Instead, the company, including a 24-person engineering unit in Israel, will focus on integrating voice-recognition software into Natural Microsystems' infrastructure components.

NMS chairman and CEO Bob Schechter said, "The addition of Mobilee's team and successful voice infrastructure technologies will accelerate our penetration of the high-growth voice Web market. Mobilee's technology enables NMS to extend a compelling capability to the next wave of companies bringing voice-activated Web content to the phone."

NMS already makes infrastructure used by many voice portal companies, including Tellme, Yahoo!, BeVocal and Webley. Now NMS will develop products that integrate voice functions into the components themselves.

The Kelsey Group estimates that the market for Web voice applications, including text-to-speech e-mail or directions, combined voice/fax/e-mail services, and automated customer service, will hit $41 billion in five years.

NMS announced the development of its first product to use Mobilee technology. The companies said the "HearSay SoftServer" platform would help telecom carriers bring speech-recognition applications to market faster and more cheaply.

Mobilee CEO Jacob Guedalia said, "For telecom carriers, service providers and communications equipment suppliers, merging the technologies of our two companies paves the fast track to a high-growth market -- and will make voice Web applications a reality for more enterprises and service providers that much sooner. Being part of NMS creates new opportunities to advance our software technology and to address a wider market."