RealTime IT News

Microsoft's TellMe Ups Cool Smartphone Ante

Take that, iPhone.

Microsoft moved to gain some much needed buzz for its Windows Mobile platform with today's announcement of new voice recognition from its TellMe Networks subsidiary. The news comes on the two-year anniversary of Microsoft's purchase of TellMe for a reported $800 million.

The new service makes voice recognition features available at the touch of a single button on Windows Mobile phones. For example, press the button and say "text" to open a text box, speak the text message and then say "send" to send it to anyone on the user's contact list.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) claims voice is much simpler than a touch screen interface and preferred by most users. Among several examples, Microsoft said it takes a touch of a button and a verbal command to find a business using the voice application. By comparison, Microsoft said it takes four touches and more than twenty keystrokes to perform the same task on the iPhone.

"Because it’s so intuitive, we believe there is a real opportunity for voice to materialize as the leading user interface for the phone," said Dariusz Packzuski, senior director of consumer services at Tellme in a statement. "By bringing voice access to calling, texting and searching, together we reduce 'menu surfing' on phones and make the benefits of voice more tangible for everyday needs."

Packzuski also said the voice interface has already proved popular on Sprint Instinct phones where the carrier has integrated voice access to Microsoft's Live Search application. "In fact, we've seen impressive adoption of voice with three in every four search queries being initiated by voice," said Packzuski.

TellMe said in a release that it's designed a unique version of the voice recognition experience specifically for phones running the forthcoming 6.5 version of Windows Mobile software due out this fall. Initially, it will be available in the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft's version of the App Store Apple offers for the iPhone.

Microsoft said the service will also be available for free to mobile operators and carriers to embed on their devices.

While there is the anniversary tie-in to today's news, Microsoft may also have made the announcement in hopes of preempting iPhone-related announcements from Apple expected this June at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and the sleek Pre from Palm due out in June that's considered a likely competitor to the iPhone.