Disney’s Overseas Internet Boss Joins Start-Up Voice Portal

[London, ENGLAND] Chafic Najia, managing director of
GO.com International, the
Internet business of the Walt Disney Company, has left
to lead start-up European voice portal
Vox Generation Ltd.

Najia, who has been with the the Disney Internet division
since 1996, was responsible for managing all of GO.com’s
businesses outside the United States. But like many other
top company executives he has found the prospect of being
“in on the ground floor” just too exciting to turn down.

Vox Generation plans to deliver Web-based and other
types of service to mobile professionals in Europe,
focusing on audio media and using a common natural
language voice interface.

“The opportunity to lead a company that is at the vanguard
of exploiting this immense new field medium was irresistible,”
said Najia.

According to Najia, Vox Generation’s technical team has
already made rapid progress and the company is now putting
its management in place to prepare for the industry links
it intends to set up.

Voice interfaces are a logical solution to the problem
of inputting commands on small devices — but will they work?

Vox Generation says it has successfully completed a
“proof-of-concept” phase which showed that speech can
do the job. It is now working on a fully-scaled version
of its proprietary Speech User Interface.

Among the services to be offered will be voice-commerce
(or v-commerce) services, including travel booking, entertainment
listings and bookings, gift purchasing, betting and auctions.
Users will also have the option of managing their personal
financial portfolios using the same voice interface.

The potential market clearly has to be substantial to
attract a Disney boss away from his cheese, and the figures
bear this out. Mobile phone ownership will rise to
around 390 million subscribers by next year, double the
number of PCs in Europe, while, according to Forrester,
mobile users will account for a third of Web accesses
by 2004.

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