Oracle continues to build voice support in software

Oracle Corp. upped its commitment to adding voice technology to its entire software line Thursday, saying one of its main products will be voice-ready by year end.

The next version of Oracle's 9i Application Server Wireless, due out later this year, will feature voice technology that will allow developers to create applications that can be manipulated with voice commands and used with a PC connected to the Web or via a wireless device.

By making voice technology available on the application server, developers can build software that takes advantage of voice technology around already existing programming languages such Java, Visual Basic and Extensible Markup Language (XML), according to Oracle.

Oracle has opened what it calls the an OracleMobile Online Studio program to let developers test voice-enabled and wireless applications via its Web site.

A number of vendors are building voice technology into their products, which essentially allows users to use devices and applications with voice commands, and have computers read text back to them. Microsoft Corp., for example, eventually plans to let users speak sentences and enter data into applications such as Word or Excel and even to navigate around Windows with voice commands.

Last month, Oracle partnered with Ford Motor Co. and Qualcomm Inc. to jointly deliver by 2002 voice-enabled, wireless services for cars, such as the ability to track a vehicle's location and speed using an IP address, and then use that information to warn drivers about traffic congestion in the area.

Oracle plans to deliver more complex services such as voice-enabled, wireless access to applications like e-mail, CRM (customer relationship management) and SFA (sales force automation) via a central car-computing device. Sales personnel who travel frequently by car could then, for example, track down leads or pull up customer information while on the road. To help push along these efforts, Oracle also announced Thursday the formation of a voice-technology development center in Chicago, which will test applications by Oracle and other vendors, the company said in a statement.

The Oracle9i Application Server enterprise editions costs US$20,000 per processor. The wireless option costs an additional $10,000.

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