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Oracle to add voice to mobile Web portal

The company's mobile phone spin-off, OracleMobile.com, will give its wireless Web portal a voice tomorrow.

Oracle's mobile phone spin-off, OracleMobile.com, will give its wireless Web portal a voice tomorrow.

OracleMobile.com is one of several companies competing to create home pages for the few people in the United States who are accessing the Web over their wireless phones. Like other companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Phone.com, it's also looking for a way to get around the difficulty of navigating Web content on cell phones, and has settled on voice recognition.

Oracle's portal will add services that allow callers to talk directly to the page and have the Web content read to them, the company said.

The move follows similar technology announcements from Lucent and from a growing list of start-up firms such as TellMe Networks and TelSurf Networks, which are also providing voice access to a variety of wireless Web services. All of the companies are looking at predictions that the number of mobile phone subscribers worldwide will reach 1 billion by 2003, and they're hoping to capture a slice of these subscribers' online business.

The wireless portal is a step away from Oracle's ordinary business, which is geared more toward high-end corporate software than consumer content. But the company is using the site as a kind of proof that its wireless portal technology works as well as competing technology from Phone.com and others.

The company has created the portal, which includes news, stocks and entertainment information, as a free service over the wireless Web, and expects it to be supported by advertising and small cuts of transaction revenues, the company says.

Adding voice access Wireless takes center stageis a way to allow the huge number of cell phone subscribers who don't have Web-enabled phones to get the same services, the company said.

"We are giving people who don't have new, expensive (Web-enabled) phones the ability to access the service," said Jacob Christfort, OracleMobile.com's chief technical officer.

The company had promised voice access to its service when it launched in February. The movie service will ultimately be joined by access to other services such as stock trades and restaurant reviews and reservations, Christfort said.