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Microsoft's first iPhone app--Tellme?

Redmond isn't saying, but CNET News' Ina Fried suspects one of the first apps could be from the voice search company Microsoft acquired last year.

Microsoft hasn't committed to any iPhone apps. However, if I was a betting woman, I would put my money on something coming from Microsoft's Tellme unit.

Tellme is the speech recognition company that Microsoft bought last year. Among its many products is one that lets you speak a search term into a phone and get back a screen with information--say the location of the nearest gas station or pizza parlor.

Tellme CEO-turned-Microsoft executive Mike McCue has been spending a lot of time these days integrating his voice search technology with Windows Mobile. However, Tellme has also continued to work with Microsoft's rivals in the cell phone business. In fact, Tellme's latest software was released first for the BlackBerry.

McCue, who sports a 20th anniversary Mac on his desk and praises Apple for its design, has made it clear he wants to be wherever the mobile customers are.

"We want to be on every phone possible," he said in an interview earlier this year.

He also noted that while the iPhone is seen as the be-all and end-all of mobile gadgets, it is actually fairly cumbersome and a two-handed job to search for local listings. No matter how great a touch screen is, he says, saying what you are looking for, if done right, can be much faster.

To switch a song on the iPhone, he noted, takes six clicks on the iPhone.

"Changing tunes on your iPhone is a dangerous experience," he said.

As elegant as the iPhone is--and McCue gives it lots of credit--what's really needed, McCue said, is a new interface. Not surprisingly, he sees voice as a big part of the solution.

It's not surprising, as Microsoft works to catch up to Apple, that McCue's team has been spending a lot more time lately on mobile applications, working closely with the group developing Windows Mobile 7--the next version of Microsoft's cell phone operating system.

"We want to make Windows Mobile better," McCue said, but added quickly, "Tellme will be available on all mobile operating systems."