Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Voice Services

Remember those free voice service companies like TelSurf, AudioPoint, BeVocal, Yahoo by Phone,, and Tellme that would give you some internet type information (News, Weather, Sports, etc.) simply by dialing in (some toll free). Many maneuvered via voice commands. It seems that most of these have gone by the wayside, at least in regards to their initial business model, except for Tellme.

Yahoo by Phone

Yahoo by Phone (1-800-MY-YAHOO) is still around, but is a pay service.

Bevocal Logo

Bevocal appears to still be in the voice app business, but a model that supplies corporations with custom voice applications.

For those with internet on their phones such services may seem redundant, but it can be nice to make your way to a weather forcast or other such information while commuting without taking your eyes off of the road to click on something via your (insert device name here - e.g. Treo 650).

Excerpts from an early article (5/11/2000) on the services:

These launches are all happening because two crucial technologies have come of age. Speech recognition software from companies such as Lucent, Nuance and Speechworks can now understand a wide range of accents and diction without having to be trained to a specific voice. And computer languages such as VoiceXML make it as easy to write voice services as HTML has made it to write web pages.

With VoiceXML, the human voice becomes a substitute for a computer mouse and the spoken command for a click. It doesn’t, however, call up conventional web pages, but content which is specially composed for a telephone: sound clips, numbers, music, spoken texts.

Of these ventures, TellMe stands out. Its founders are top engineers from Netscape and Microsoft.

TellMe’s mission is not just to be a phone-based information service, but a platform for “v-commerce” (voice commerce). The firm hopes that other companies will use its technology to build a “voice presence” on the Internet, just as they have created web services.

And, last but not least, the services have to find a way to make money. TellMe has opted for an advertising-supported business model, but also intends to charge e-commerce sites for building and maintaining their voice services and it wants to take a cut on every purchase that is made through its system.


This is where I would guess some of the mentioned companies were short-sighted and could not figure out a business model for making money. As Tellme (link to corporate page) is the only one that I notice that is still around and offering a free service, I am guessing they may have figured it out best.

What brought about this post?

Sprint Upgrade Program Graphic

I revisited these services as my Sanyo 8100 has gotten to the point where the battery didn't want to hold a charge for any length of time. I was at the point where I could utilize Sprint's New for You Upgrade Program. A new battery would cost as much as a new phone and the Sanyo was also showing some wear and tear. So I utilized the program and got a Nokia 6016i.

Nokia 6016i

Why the Nokia 6016i. I really got to thinking about my Vision Service (Sprint Service required to do Pics and Internet - to fully utilize you also need a phone capable of utilizing the features). I enjoy photography, but the quality, although getting better, isn't that great with most of the phones and the Internet via the phone is somewhat novel. Handy for checking weather, e-mail, or killing time if stuck somewhere, but if you are not a road warrior, you are usually close enough to a PC soon enough that you can really wait. So no money out of pocket and dropped the $15 a month Vision, as this phone doesn't do Internet or Pics. I think this might work out well. I am one of those people that really does prefer a bar phone for some reason. I even like the slide phones better than the flip phones. There are smaller bar phones out there, but this one is a nice comfortable size. I really like it. So to recap, why the Nokia 6016i, it does the simple phone stuff, is a bar type phone, is new (comes with new battery - meaning more phone time than my old one), out no money, actually I saved money. Cool.

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