Archive for the ‘VoiceXML’ Category

Forthcoming: Genesys Customer Interaction Portal for Self-Service

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Previous posts ([1], [2]) in this blog pointed to the increased intrest in hosted or managed service models for speech applications. Another writing suggested that Genesys’ recent acquisition of VoiceGenie did not bring any news in terms of rapid application development. Apparently Genesys was well aware of this gap in their offering, as they have just announced the Genesys Customer Interaction Portal, “a browser-based portal to simplify the development and provisioning of voice self-service and speech applications”. The announcement is somewhat premature, though, since the portal will only be available in a month or so.

According to the press release, the Genesys Customer Interaction Portal will enable managed services providers to quickly productize speech applications (themselves built from so-called Voiclets) which are easily configurable by the end customer via a web interface. Sounds somewhat like a carrier-hosted variant of angel.com, if you ask me. In exactly what tool the speech applications and/or the Voiclets are themselves developed, however, is unclear: Voicint, the company who built the Customer Interaction Portal for Genesys, strangely also promotes VoiceObjects X5 as a complementary tool for building and managing speech applications. On top of this third-party tool, Voicint also offers VUI design services. All of which suggests that the Customer Interaction Portal is great for provisioning prepackaged applications and/or Voiclets, but not meant for quick-and-clean voice application development.

The dust will hopefully settle as soon as the Genesys Customer Interaction Portal is transformed from vaporware into testable software. To be continued!

Voxeo and MAP Telecom offer VoiceXML & CCXML hosting services in EMEA through strategic partnership

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Orlando, FL. based Voxeo and Monaco based MAP Telecom have announced a strategic partnership whereby “Voxeo will provide the IVR infrastructure for MAP Telecom’s current facilities in Europe and four planned facilities in the Middle East”.

Current customers would be given “the choice to move from MAP Telecom’s legacy platform” (Voxbuilder from Voxpilot), and migrate to “a new and expanded multi-language developer community portal based on the Voxeo Evolution site” (more particularly maptelecom.voxeo.com).

It is not the first time that a US-based VoiceXML hosting company tries to set foot in mainland Europe. In May 2001, Tellme Networks acquired merged with Brussels-based MagicPhone, but the unconsumated marriage ended in poverty and dispute 15 months later.

From the point of view of Voxeo, a strategic partnership with a pan-European player makes sense in various ways. First, the financial risks linked to the setup of new platforms are shared. Second, MAP Telecom’s local knowledge in number provisioning on a pan-European scale (and beyond) offers Voxeo hassle-free access to a market of hundreds of millions of callers. Third, the respective companies’ core competencies are clearly complementary.

MAP Telecom, on the other hand, will benefit from Voxeo’s excellent reputation in system reliability and uptime.

Here’s a number of questions I’d like to see answered:
1) Why should MAP Telecom customers or development partners really care about which VoiceXML browser they’re using? Haven’t these become commodities, just like MS IE or Apache in the web browser world?
2) Will Voxeo’s excellent customer service be replicated in EMEA? If so, to what extent will the service be localized to a multilingual audience? Which party will take care of this, Voxeo or MAP Telecom?
3) Will MAP Telecom and its ecosystem of development partners commercially benefit from Voxeo’s customer base as far as global accounts are concerned? In other words, does the partnership offer any commercial synergy?
4) Will the addition of an alternative platform bring about lower prices, and hence market acceleration?
5) Will MAP Telecom’s legacy Voxpilot platform be maintained forever, or phased out?
6) How will the partnership succeed in convincing conservative European call center managers to adopt the hosted or managed services model for more than just the speech interface?

Irrespective of the answers to these questions, Voxeo’s crossing the Atlantic is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the European speech technology market. Finally, it will also be interesting to see if the partnership can be a boon the Skype Voice Services program, in which both MAP Telecom and Voxeo play a role.

Speech platform standardization, consolidation and commoditization full steam ahead

Friday, April 7th, 2006

This week Microsoft has licenced Vocalocity’s VoiceXML technology for use in future versions of its Speech Server product. Interested developers can sign up for a beta version of Speech Server 2007 as of today.

With this move, Microsoft finally recognizes the primary status of VoiceXML, a W3C standard, as the lingua franca for speech enabled phone applications. Speech technology buyers can now focus on development environment capabilities or partner application availabilities without having to make a core language choice (VoiceXML vs. SALT) at the same time. Less uncertainty means faster decisions, so faster market development.

After last year’s merger of Nuance and Scansoft (the latter already including a.o. SpeechWorks, Philips Speech Processing, and Rhetorical Systems), the industry is now witnessing another consolidation: Genesys, an Alcatel company, this week acquired VoiceGenie, a major VoiceXML platform vendor (aka voice portal provider). According to the press release, the takeover is expected to “accelerate the trend away from legacy, proprietary IVRs (interactive voice response) to new Voice XML software standards”.

Apart from the obvious market defragmentation effect, it will be interesting to see the influence of the take-over on the status of Genesys Voice Portal (GVP), which evolved from the Telera acquisition back in 2002. More important for market acceleration, though, is the availability (also in pricing terms) of state-of-the-art development environments. In that respect, the acquisition of VoiceGenie does not add much value; frustrated users of Genesys Studio like myself would have preferred an acquisition of Audium or VoiceObjects, to name just those two. We will see what the future holds.

The boldest move so far this year on the platform commoditization front came from Voxeo. Two months ago they launched Prophecy, which was recently certified as the first 100% compliant VoiceXML 2.0 platform. Prophecy comes with a built-in ASR and TTS server, but also supports external speech servers through its MRCP client. The platform is free (as in free beer) for development purposes.

Standardization, consolidation, and commoditization are the traditional features of a maturing industry.