Gates adds his voice to speech, developer message

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates pitched developers on the software maker's latest speech recognition and software development tools during a keynote address on Wednesday.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates used a keynote address on Wednesday to highlight the software maker's move toward converging speech recognition and mobile technologies with its development environment.

"Microsoft remains committed to enabling software developers to create the applications and services that will shape the future of computing," said Gates, during a speech to kick off the combined VSLive, Microsoft Mobile DevCon and Avios-SpeechTek conferences.

Gates, who did not make any mention of the European Union's $611 million fine against Microsoft earlier in the day, highlighted features in the coming release of Visual Studio 2005 and formally launched Speech Server 2004.

In news related to Visual Studio 2005, the next generation of Microsoft's developer toolkit, the company announced that it will make pre-release versions of the product available to get more in-depth feedback from customers, and Gates said that an edit-and-continue utility will once again be a part of Visual Studio. Microsoft also announced that it has created two new ASP.NET resources for Web developers: the Issue Tracker Starter Kit and the DotNetNuke Portal 2.0.

In a separate announcement, Microsoft said that Business Objects Software Ltd. will ship its Crystal Reports reporting software with Visual Studio 2005.

Code reuse a goal

Gates' keynote was interspersed with demonstrations of the latest technologies in both VS 2005 and Speech Server 2004, the company's new speech recognition product. Microsoft's plan is to focus on developers' productivity by reducing the amount of code that they have to write, said Jay Roxe, Microsoft's Visual Basic product manager.

Roxe said that, by reusing code and by using some of the features that will be included in VS 2005, developers can reduce application code size by 50%. Also demonstrated was Microsoft's commitment to development integration. A Web services application, a mobile application and a speech-based application were all created and used during the 90-minute keynote.

Microsoft's latest developer strategy made sense to conference attendee Rick Austin, a principal engineer at Intermec Technologies Corp., an Everett, Wash.-based builder of handheld industrial products. "Microsoft's enablement of software development is what has led them to such desktop success," Austin said.

Leveraging VS.NET

While the keynote focused on developer tools, the announcement of Microsoft's latest server, Speech Server 2004, was met with some surprise.

"I attended the conference to keep up with the industry, and frankly I was not expecting the capabilities of Microsoft's Speech Server," said Seema Kodri, a senior software engineer for Intel Corp.

Microsoft Speech Server is a standards-based, integrated speech platform. It includes a set of Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) development tools that take advantage of the VS.NET programming model.

Though developers were impressed with the speech recognition technology, some were unsure about how soon it would be rolled out in their organizations.

"Microsoft's demonstration of their Speech Server was very intriguing, but I think that we would need to find customers interested in implementing speech on the back end before we could invest in it," Austin said.

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