Transmeta Scores Voice Device Deal

Semiconductor maker Transmeta Wednesday said it will supply its Crusoe processors for a new telephone reception device made for the German market.

The partnership with VoiceCom AG will feature an 800 MHz TM5800 processor in a speech- controlled telephone dialing system designed for small businesses.

The product, known as VoiceButler, simultaneously manages up to 20 users, recognizing and responding to voices in all major languages. In addition to some basic telecommunications capabilities, the device automatically identifies and dials a desired phone extension when prompted by voice command to reach a designated person.

The VoiceButler, which will begin shipping in Germany during the second quarter of this year, is compatible with the majority of the PBX systems in the German market. VoiceCom AG first demonstrated the product at the CeBit technology trade show in March. Depending on the system configuration selected, the VoiceButler ranges in price from USD$1,900 to USD$2,800.

Launched in February 1999, VoiceButler was the first big public text-to-speech service in mobile communications and an early convergent product in the area Internet and language. The company’s speech technology was developed and supplied by VoxTron based on standard Dialogic D/300 boards and the Lernout & Hauspie text-to-speech engine.

The device operates by allocating an e-mail address consisting of a user’s mobile phone number and the domain name. When the user receives e-mail, an SMS message is sent containing the name of the sender, the subject and the first 140 characters of the body of the message. Users can listen to their e-mail messages by dialing the VoiceButler number. Technically, the L&H speech engine converts the text of the e-mail into a VOX-file, which is played back on a channel of the Dialogic D/300 board. At the moment the speech engine supports the German, English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian languages. User can mark, delete, and navigate their messages using the keypad. When the user replies to a message, VoiceButler records a voice message which is sent as a sound file attachment.

“The low operating temperature of the Crusoe processor allows the product to run without active cooling, eliminating the potential reliability issues that accompany fan-cooled systems,” VoiceCom manager of production Rupert Borchert said in a statement.

Best known for its low-power chips, Transmeta is making a name for itself overseas. In the past three months, the company has inked partnerships with U.K. and Chinese device manufacturers including Time Computers, Viglen and China’s second largest notebook maker, Tsinghua Unisplendour Group.

Transmeta’s marquee chip relationship remains its supply deal with Hewlett-Packard for that company’s Compaq Evo Tablet PCs.

“Transmeta is making significant progress with design wins in European markets and for embedded business segments,” said Transmeta senior vice president of marketing Arthur Swift. “The VoiceButler exemplifies the diversity of embedded opportunities which exist for Transmeta based on the exceptional balance of energy efficiency and performance of our processors.”

Transmeta is also developing its next-generation processor — TM8000 or Astro — for use in a gamut of devices ranging from ultra-light notebooks to high-density blade servers.

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