Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Tellme

With Apple picking up Siri, will Microsoft rethink which technology it's including in Windows Phone 7?
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

The big Apple news of the day is that Apple has now purchased Siri. It was rumored and tweeted and now confirmed, according to a BusinessWeek article citing a managing director at Melo Ventures, a Siri investor.

Before you think that Apple now has the upper hand, let me remind you of an acquisition that Microsoft made for approximately $800 million back in March of 2007. The company was Tellme, and offers a voice-enabled platform.

At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft had big plans for its Tellme technology, including using it to

"enhance Microsoft's many voice-enabled applications, including the Windows Vista operating system, the Microsoft Office system, and mobile applications such as Windows Mobile and Windows Automotive."

Unfortunately, it looks like the Microsoft folks forgot about the quote above, and have yet to introduce the Tellme technology into its mobile offering.

Perhaps now that Apple is getting into the voice-enabled game, now Microsoft will take a look at the technology it already has and see how fast it can integrate it with existing and soon-to-be released solutions?

I recall hearing that future versions of Windows Mobile-enabled phones would have a button that a user could push that would then let them talk to their phone instead of trying to key in requests. It was a great idea, and one that will look like the company is playing catch-up if it was introduced today.

The best thing about competition is that generally speaking, the consumer wins. With Apple buying up chip companies and now getting into the voice-enabled game, it's going to force Microsoft, RIM and others to up their game, too.

UPDATE: Microsoft has informed me that Tellme has actually been integrated into a number of its mobile solutions. I have detailed them below:

  • Windows Mobile 6.5 - I made mention of hearing about a one-button activation of Tellme on Windows Mobile. It seems that Microsoft offered it to its vendors and so far Samsung has integrated it into its Intrepid, running Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional
  • Tellme is also living in Bing 411. You dial 1-800-BING-411 and say what you want and get it
  • And it's apparently integrated into Bing for mobile (m.bing.com)

So, the good news is that Tellme is integrated. The bad news is that I had no idea. I'm not your average user, either. I've been following, covering, and using Windows Mobile-based devices since the operating system's inception and was disappointed to not see one-button Tellme-enabled phones everywhere. Now it appears that Tellme is being integrated, but where's the press talking about Tellme and the unified voice-enabled experience?

Also, what about Windows Phone 7? Will that offer Tellme? Since Microsoft provided the above, I'll inquire about future Tellme integration.

UPDATE2: Ok, here's the response I received when I asked about plans to integrate Tellme into Windows Phone 7:

"Regarding your Windows Phone7 question – In today’s connected environment, people are more mobile and using more devices to connect to what they want. At the same time, the pervasiveness of online resources has trained people that information can be easy to access, personalized, relevant and immediate. This changing landscape has reshaped how people expect to access and receive services and information. Earlier versions of Windows Phones have had our speech capabilities in them. We will have more to say later this year on the role of speech in Windows Phone 7 and will be sure to highlight this information with you."

In other words, no comment.

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