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IBM hopes Merlin will spell magic

IBM's new operating system can recognize your voice.

IBM demonstrated today a new version of its OS/2 operating system that features speech recognition so that users will be able to dictate letters and email or navigate the Internet using voice commands.

Shown at the company's annual developers conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the new version, code-named Merlin, is slated to ship by the end of the year for Pentium-based computers.

Voice-recognition software has been on the market for some time but most packages are too expensive for the average home user. Many users who do invest in the systems grow frustrated with software that has trouble recognizing voices, requires the user to speak extremely slowly, or simply stops working in noisy environments. IBM says its VoiceType software, however, understands normal speech for basic commands but still requires users to pause after each word when dictating letters and other documents.

Merlin will replace IBM's current versions of OS/2 Warp and Warp Connect, a version with built in networking protocols and other networking features. Competing against Windows, OS/2 commands less than 15 percent of the desktop OS market. The company has not yet determined pricing for Merlin.