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Web whispers about Microsoft voice plan

Details leak onto the Internet about a new application from the software giant that will add voice recognition to handheld computers that use the company's Pocket PC software.

Details have leaked onto the Web about a new Microsoft application that will add voice recognition to handheld computers that use the company's Pocket PC software.

Microsoft began soliciting beta testers in September for Voice Command, a software add-on for Pocket PC handhelds and Smartphones. According to information sent to testers, the software would enable them to control all basic functions of a device by talking into its microphone.

A Microsoft representative said the company plans to release the software next week through Handango, a Web site that specializes in software for handhelds. But Handango posted details of the application and a price late last week, and word of the application spread among Pocket PC enthusiasts.

The program will sell for $40, according to Handango, which lists it as now available. Attempts to download the program produce an error message, however.

According to the Handago description, Voice Command will let Pocket PC users perform all basic functions--such as accessing calendar and contact information, placing phone calls and launching applications--by issuing voice commands. The software will also integrate with the handheld version of Microsoft's Media Player to allow voice-activated control of digital music playback, according to Handango.

IBM, Microsoft and others are making significant investments in speech technology, hoping that voice systems will push computing forward by offering a more natural interface for working with machines.