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IBM touts voice, handheld tools

Big Blue bolsters its WebSphere lineup with software for building voice-enabled applications and ships a series of tools for non-PC devices.

IBM has bolstered its WebSphere lineup with tools for building applications with a voice interface and has shipped a series of development tools for non-PC devices.

The WebSphere Voice Application Access package provides tools and server software designed to help developers create voice portals, or Web-based applications that people can navigate by speaking commands. Tying it to the company's WebSphere Portal and Voice Server products provides access to several applications through a single telephone number, IBM said Monday.

IBM's voice middleware works with other speech-recognition applications that adhere to the VoiceXML standard and the Java programming language, including products from speech engine vendor Nuance Communications and networking giant Cisco Systems. VoiceXML is a language, sanctioned by the World Wide Web Consortium and gaining in industry support, for writing applications with a voice interface.

As part of IBM's overall "pervasive computing" initiative for connecting networks and portable devices, the company also released software to ease the creation of applications that run on cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other wireless devices.

Following last month's introduction of WebSphere 5.0 application server, IBM said that related development tools, called WebSphere Studio Device Developer 5.0 and WebSphere Micro Environment 5.0, are now available. Both are compatible with the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME) standard for making Java applications that run on handheld devices. Also now available is DB2 Everyplace 8.1, which adds an extra layer of encryption for databases on handheld devices, the company said.

WebSphere Voice Application Access middleware will be available Dec. 20. A beta, or test, version is available on IBM's Web site.