Applications

Microsoft gets verbal about voice-activation program

The company details its strategy for expanding the capabilities and distribution of its Voice Command software, a program that lets people control handheld devices via spoken instructions.

Microsoft detailed on Thursday its strategy for expanding the capabilities and distribution of its Voice Command software, a program that lets people control handheld devices via spoken instructions.

Unveiled in November, Microsoft Voice Command lets users of gadgets running the software giant's Pocket PC operating system issue spoken commands to get calendar and contact information, make phone calls, access applications, and perform other basic functions. The software can also be used with the handheld version of Microsoft's Media Player to allow voice-activated control of digital music playback.

The company said Thursday, at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, that it plans to add a number of new features to the software before the end of the year, including international language support. Microsoft did not specify which languages it intends to support; the program currently works only with English. Other upgrades will include support for new handheld devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS.

Microsoft also announced a number of marketing and distribution plans related to Voice Command, including a shrink-wrapped version of the software to be sold through retail partners. The software is currently only available via download. Microsoft said it will also start packaging Voice Command with mobile device products from some of its manufacturer partners, including Plantronics, which will offer the software gratis with one of its hands-free headset accessories.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker also said it has begun offering a free trial version of Voice Command. The 24-hour test version is available through online retail partner Handango, which reported that the Microsoft Voice Command package has become its best-selling application for Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs. The software currently retails for $39.95.

Voice Command, which uses phonetic speech-recognition technology, was developed by Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit.