February 15, 2012
Microsoft Sheds Speech-Focus Assets, Employees
By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor
Noted Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley reported recently that Microsoft, which bought Tellme (News - Alert) Networks in 2007 for an upwards of $1 billion dollars, give or take, is now handing off “some of its 400 or so Tellme employees along with certain Tellme speech technologies,” to 24/7.
Nobody in Redmond was divulging the terms of the agreement, although Foley mentioned a licensing deal and an unspecified equity stake in 24/7. The licensing will cover some speech-related intellectual property. Microsoft (News - Alert) officials didn’t say how many of the employees were moving to 24/7.
Other reports at the time noted that 24/7 makes a “Predictive Experience (PX)” platform, which “delivers customer experiences online and on mobile, and offers speech and live chat software,” according to TechCrunch, using large-scale data analytics “to try and predict what customers want.” The technology is used in self-service voice response for such customers as Avis Budget Group and United Airlines.
At the time of the Microsoft purchase in 2007, Tellme provided IVR and what Foley calls “speech cloud services.” The IVR assets are going over to 24/7, she said, noting that Microsoft’s hanging on to the speech cloud service and will mix it with their in-house speech technology.
According to industry observer Michele Masterson, Ilya Bukshteyn (News - Alert), senior director of Microsoft's Online Services Division said IVR is part of the Tellme deal, calling it “complimentary with the speech platform.”
Bukshteyn said "Now what we've seen in the last year is a little bit of divergence in those businesses," he says. "What we're hearing from IVR customers is really much more of a focus on the changes going on more broadly in customer service rather than just narrowly in IVR.”
Microsoft does this kind of thing from time to time, licensing technology it owns but really isn’t interested in focusing on to others to run with, via the IP Ventures licensing division.
Windows 8 is slated to get improved speech recognition, and that’s still the plan, Microsoft officials promise, Foley said.
IDG News reported that “the companies will also do joint research and development focused on TellMe speech and natural language technology,” adding that 24/7 products will be used with such Microsoft offerings as Windows Phone (News - Alert), the Bing search engine and Dynamics CRM.
David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Juliana Kenny
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