Voice Meets IM

Jabber.com Inc. and Nuance (Nasdaq: NUAN) brought Instant Messaging (IM) and the Voice Web a step closer together today with an agreement under which Nuance will provide a voice interface to Jabber’s IM software and Jabber will add Nuance’s speech-recognition engine to its product offerings.

The agreement would allow Nuance customers and partners to develop voice-enabled IM applications, and to IM-enable their existing voice applications. Jabber customers will in turn be able to add voice to their IM implementations.

“This extends accessibility to the telephone without having to type messages on the keypad. It’s like moving from Outlook to a Web-based email client for accessibility,” Jabber founder Andre Durand told InternetNews.

With the combined technologies, a user can dial in from the road on a phone and be connected to the Instant Messaging server. A desktop user logged in to the IM service would see the mobile user on his roster of active “buddies.” The desktop user could type in a message, which would be translated into speech with Nuance’s server-side Vocalizer text-to-speech software, and the mobile user could reply by voice, which would be translated to text for the desktop user.

“This is light years ahead of what anyone else is doing,” Durand said. “Other companies are working on optimizing input through a numeric keypad. This allows a phone user and a desktop user to have a conversation.”

Burton Group analyst James Kobielus lauds the partnership for making Instant Messaging and presence services accessible from a full range of client devices, including telephones and cell phones. “Nuance’s partnership with Jabber.com signals an important industry trend: integration of Instant Messaging and presence services into messaging and collaboration environments where the same services are available to a broad range of clients: data and voice, wired and wireless.”

Voice applications will use presence information from IM to leverage the community aspects of Instant Messaging. The integration also opens the door to new possibilities for integrated voice services and applications leveraging the Nuance voice and Jabber real time messaging and presence platform capabilities.

According to a recent report by IDC on the wireless IM market, the wireless instant messaging subscriber base is expected to grow to more than 43 million by 2004, with over 30 percent of this usage coming from cellular/PCS subscribers.

“The integration of Nuance and Jabber products eliminates the use of the telephone keypad and allows people to send and receive instant messages using a voice interface,” said Steve Ehrlich, vice president of marketing for Nuance. “Jabber’s flexible API’s, client-side developer’s libraries, sophisticated presence management and extensive use of XML, will ensure that voice IM plays an important role in the Voice Web”

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