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Microsoft, Unisys team for speech

The two firms partner to broaden the market for advanced desktop and telephony speech applications, and to compete with IBM and Lotus.

Microsoft and Unisys have teamed to spread the word on speech technology.

Unisys and Microsoft today announced a marketing and technology alliance that they claim will broaden the market for advanced desktop and telephony speech applications.

The two companies are working together to speed the adoption of the Speech Application Programming Interface (SAPI) for speech applications, providing software developers with a set of tools and support programs that work to simplify speech technology deployment, according to the companies.

Speech technology applications enable desktop and handheld computer programs to recognize and respond to spoken commands. Partnerships like this give Microsoft a leg up in its battle with IBM in the speech technology market.

The agreement enables Unisys to distribute key Microsoft speech- and SAPI-based software such as Microsoft automated speech recognizer and the Microsoft Text-to-Speech engines.

Microsoft and Unisys will jointly participate in speech-related trade shows and other industry events. Unisys will also be included in the ongoing planning and product rollout of future versions of Microsoft SAPI technology.

A Web site disseminating the objectives of the partnership was launched today and is sponsored by Unisys. SpeechDepot provides all the components, information, guidance, and products needed for design, development, and deployment of speech-based applications.

As part of the new initiative with Microsoft, Unisys has created a packaged SAPI-only version of its Natural Language Speech Assistant application development toolkit, available today for downloading from the SpeechDepot Web site.

Unisys NLSA is a toolkit that streamlines voice-user interface design, development, testing, and deployment. Microsoft SAPI provides the speech middleware required for building Windows operating system-based speech applications.

"Speech is a natural way for people to interact with their computers, and we expect SAPI to provide the key technology for enabling speech tools to build great speech-enabled applications for Windows," Doug Henrich, general manager, Microsoft Speech Product Unit, said in a statement.

"The goal of SAPI is to provide a consistent and high-performance way for achieving voice input and output on various computing platforms," he added. "By working with companies such as Unisys, we can provide an even greater number of software developers with new ways to use advanced Microsoft speech technologies to create speech-enabled applications."

Microsoft competes with IBM and its subsidiary Lotus in the race to provide speech technologies to the desktop.