Microsoft's Tellme launches its best app ever...for BlackBerry

So where's the Windows Mobile version? And why BlackBerry at all?

OK, Mike McCue, CEO of recently-acquired-by-Microsoft Tellme: Tell me again why your brand new mobile phone app--the cool one that lets you speak a business name or category into the phone and then gives you nearest matches on your screen--is out first for the BlackBerry, and not Windows Mobile?

As McCue explained it to me, Tellme had the BlackBerry app well into development when Microsoft acquired his company. But why BlackBerry at all? Because it's a better platform for Java, which the app is built on, than is Windows Mobile.

Push to talk.

Of course, Tellme will build a Windows Mobile version of the new app eventually. And in fact, McCue hopes that Tellme's functionality is embedded deeply into the next major release of Windows Mobile (version 7). But that's not coming too soon since Microsoft only just shipped Windows Mobile 6.

As to this new BlackBerry app: It is very strong. You can assign a button on your smartphone to it, and then just it hold it down, speak a directory lookup, like "coffee" or "Nordstrom," and the phone's screen displays the closest matches to you, based on your GPS location. Then you can select an option to call the location, map it, get directions, or share the link with someone else.

You can also speak a movie title or ask for a weather forecast. Sports scores are coming soon. So is the capability to look up names and numbers from your phone's directory, or your Outlook contacts list.

All the processing and rendering, including the voice recognition itself, happens on Tellme's servers, not on your phone. So you get fast and accurate responses--assuming you have a fast connection.

The interface is miles ahead of Microsoft's current smartphone app, Live Search Mobile. Tellme technology also powers the voice recognition in that app, but the interface is confusing and involved. Tellme, meanwhile, is moving towards simplifying its UI even further, aiming for what McCue calls the "60 mile-per-hour interface," the mobile phone lookup user experience that's safe to use while driving. For all our sakes, I hope Tellme gets that right.

 

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