Europe gets Voice Command

Microsoft has launched a European version of its speech recognition software for Windows Mobile
Written by Jo Best, Contributor
Microsoft is upping the stakes in the battle for control of the mobile operating system market, with new software for PDAs and investment in research and development.

The company is announcing today the release of Voice Command, speech-control software for Pocket PC devices running Windows Mobile 2003.

The software has already been released in the US, with Europe getting its own version - able to recognise distinctive European accents, including Glaswegian and Welsh - some 10 months later.

Microsoft has also opened its first ever mobile research and development lab in South Korea at a cost of $30m over three years.

Around 30 engineers will be employed by the facility, charged with developing new mobile applications, software and services, as well as new handsets, with the first handset from the R&D facility to be showcased in the near future.

South Korean handset manufacturers shipped around 1.5 billion phones last year, according to Gartner, with one in three made by either LG, Pantech or Samsung.

Microsoft is hoping to tap into South Korea's mature mobile market and developer community to increase its presence in the global mobile market, where it trails fellow OS maker Symbian in market share.

Analysts believe that Anglo-American companies can learn a great deal from South Korean and Japanese mobile operators' best practices, despite the cultural differences between the markets.

With mobile music downloads still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK - Vodafone announced recently it had notched up a million sales in around three months - MP3 players are already a standard feature on most Japanese and South Korean mobiles. South Korean operator KDDI managed to sell two million downloads in ten weeks.

Canadian analyst group Vectis believes that lessons learnt from the rollout of ringback tone services, which first surfaced in 2002, have served the operators well.

Simon Bureau, MD of Vectis and co-author of the report said in a statement: "With such long experience, Korean operators were able to implement clearly defined business models for all aspects of the music value chain from the creation of ringback tone content, management and collection of copyrights, promotion of new soundtracks, operation of servers and platforms to the collection and sharing of end-user fees."

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