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Microsoft scoops up speech technology

The assets of Unveil Technologies will help expand Microsoft's influence in the call center market.

Microsoft dove deeper into the speech application and contact center market Thursday, acquiring the intellectual property assets from Unveil Technologies Inc., Waltham, Mass.

Unveil's Conversation Suite will be integrated into future versions of Microsoft's Speech Server platform, enhancing the company's call center offerings.

"I thought Unveil's technology was very unique," said Daniel Hong, analyst with New York-based Datamonitor. "If it's deployed with a well-developed speech solution, then it can be very effective. However, Microsoft had mentioned during their launch they were not going to focus on applications. I'm curious to see what their strategy is [and] if they're going to work closely with other application partners in deploying these applications."

Unveil's learn-by-example and agent assist technologies will make it easier for customers to develop and optimize speech applications, according to Microsoft.

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"Unveil's technology is a natural fit with Speech Server because it is in line with our vision of making speech applications affordable and easy to develop and maintain," Rich Bray, general manager of the Speech Server group at Microsoft, said in a release. "By supplementing our tool set with Conversation Suite technologies, even a nontechnical call-center manager can prototype and develop robust speech applications."

Microsoft's Speech Server was launched in May 2005 and essentially serves as a tool for developers to build speech-enabled tools tied to Microsoft products. The company has already taken aim at the call center and interactive voice response markets. In August, Microsoft announced plans to integrate speech technologies into the Exchange Server.

"I don't think it necessarily strengthens their presence in the market," Hong said. "Unveil didn't have a lot of brand equity. If anything, it shows Microsoft is still intently focused on speech."

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