Tellme for iPhone due by June

An alpha version of the application for Apple's smartphone was created, but a final release is still months away, a Tellme executive tells CNET News.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Microsoft is, indeed, working on an iPhone application.

One of the big challenges in bringing the Tellme search application to the iPhone: the lack of physical buttons on the device. Microsoft

As I predicted, it is the company's Tellme unit that is actively developing a program for Apple's iPhone. Tellme offers voice-activated search for a variety of phones, including the BlackBerry.

Although the company created an early alpha program in a matter of weeks, senior director Dariusz Paczuski said it will probably be a couple of months before a public version is ready. He said it will definitely happen within the current fiscal year, which runs through June.

"I'm not sure we can squeeze it out this year, given everything we've got going on," Paczuski told me at last night's Churchill Club event.

With that time frame, it is possible some other Microsoft division could beat Tellme out of the gate, although I haven't heard any other firm plans. (Microsoft did license its ActiveSync technology to Apple, which allows the iPhone to connect to an Exchange server.)

The iPhone does present some interesting challenges. One of its big features is the fact that everything is done via a touch screen. But Tellme relies on a physical button to determine when to start listening to a query.

"You want a button," Paczuski said. Even on Sprint's touch-screen Instinct, Tellme is able to use the call button to determine when a user is speaking. He said that when the iPhone application launches, there will probably be a big virtual button in the middle of the screen.