Microsoft to buy TellMe's speech technology

Microsoft continues to push into the speech applications market with the acquisition of TellMe and its services.

Microsoft took another step into the speech technology and contact center market today, acquiring Mountain View, Calif.-based TellMe Networks Inc.

TellMe provides voice services that include directory assistance, customer service and voice-enabled applications. Its mobile search service at 1-800-555-TELL helps users find local businesses, sports scores and movie times. Businesses use TellMe's voice services and platform to provide customers with voice-access services ranging from banking to package tracking. TellMe's voice platform analyzes caller requests to continually improve the system's accuracy and overall caller experience, according to the company.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

According to Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft business division, TellMe will help the company expand its unified communications technology.

"It allows us to extend the voice platform for partners and ISVs to build speech solutions," Raikes said. "It really enhances what we can do in voice, bringing that experience in enterprise IVR and opening up new opportunities. We really see voice technology as a way to improve interaction with productivity software."

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Raikes said he expects that within three years, 100 million people will be enabled to do click to call. The acquisition will also bolster Microsoft's search development, he added.

In addition to its core Dynamics CRM application, Microsoft has been making headway into the customer service market. Its Customer Care Framework integrates service channels like voice, instant messaging and email to improve customer service levels. The system is based on its .NET platform and integrates Microsoft Office applications, back-office systems and contact center applications. Additionally, in late 2005 Microsoft acquired Unveil Technologies' intellectual property, which helps improve speech technology. Microsoft has also been developing its own speech technology, including the Speech Server. So why add TellMe?

"TellMe has the best hosted service platform for speech-enabled services today," Raikes said. "It's used by 40 million people every month. It will enhance our own technologies, open [TellMe] up to more partners and more ISVs who will be able to take advantage of their experience in enterprise IVR."

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