Sun partners with Nuance and BeVocal on VoiceTone

Sun Microsystems Inc. in alliance with two major speech vendors, BeVocal Inc. and Nuance Communications Inc., will announce on Wednesday the Sun VoiceTone Platform for wireline and wireless carriers.

The VoiceTone platform will give mobile and wireline operators a set of pre-packaged applications for voice-activated dialing; voice mail; a voice portal for access to stock quotes, news, weather, and sports; and a voice-activated e-mail reader.

Also included will be BeVocal's Café developer's tool kit for building individual applications over a set of network capabilities.

The platform will also include Sun's carrier-grade NEBS (Network Equipment Building Standard)-certified Netra T1 AC200 server, the Netra t 1405 server, and the entry-level Sun Fire V880 server. The platform will be interoperable with the iPlanet application server and Sun's iPlanet Web Proxy server, said Reza Nabavi, senior market segment manager for Wireless Data Services Market Development at Sun in Santa Clara, Calif.

The VoiceTone platform is targeted at the carrier market.

"Sun understands that the carriers need to offer something beyond inexpensive minutes. What Sun, BeVocal, and Nuance are trying to do is to condition the carriers to think like retailers to provide them with an electronic platform to offer those [enhanced] services," said Dan Miller, senior vice president at The Kelsey Group in San Jose, Calif.

BellSouth Corp., a regional Bell operating company based in Atlanta, is piloting the VoiceTone platform and plans to roll out many of its packaged solutions to consumers.

Voice dialing, for example, will allow consumers to add names by either voice enrollment over the phone, synchronization with a PDA, or adding a name from a Web interface. An e-mail reader application will read the name of the sender, subject, and then go directly to the e-mail. The e-mail reader will access ISP e-mail or Yahoo and Hotmail accounts.

In addition, BellSouth has plans to build services atop the VoiceTone platform for enterprises looking to reduce call center support costs, according to Steve Tran, vice president of business development at BeVocal in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"Every call fielded by a live operator costs about $7.50. Companies are looking for cost reductions by having those calls terminated through an automated speech recognition service," Tran said.

The VoiceTone models will give carriers the ability to voice-enable customer care applications, Outlook, and CRM applications while allowing the corporation to keeps its data behind the firewall, said Tim Morgan, director of market development at Nuance in Menlo Park, Calif.

Nuance will contribute its core speech recognition technology for text-to-speech, natural-language understanding, and voice-print verification for PINs (personal information numbers).

BeVocal will add the Voice XML software platform that runs the applications and sits atop the Sun Solaris platform.

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