Flawed Windows Vista voice-recognition speaks volumes

Flawed Windows Vista voice-recognition speaks volumes

If its performance during a demonstration last week at Microsoft's annual

Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) is any indication, a voice-recognition feature

in Windows Vista is not quite ready for prime time.

An interactive voice response (IVR) system in Vista that is supposed to allow a

user to dictate text into a Microsoft Word document did not work as expected at

the event last. It failed to correctly recognize what the Microsoft

team member was saying on several occasions, the results inspiring laughter

from the crowd of analysts and journalists attending the day-long meeting.

When the Microsoft employee told the software to type, "Dear mom," it typed

"Dear aunt" instead. When he told the software to "fix aunt," it typed "let's

set" instead, and then failed to respond to several prompts of "delete that" in

an effort to fix the error. The software experienced several other glitches

before the demonstration ended.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Kirkland, Washington, research firm Directions on

Microsoft, said he was "surprised" Microsoft would demonstrate the IVR

feature of Vista at FAM. "It's not something they made a big deal about, and

not something we're following as a big reason to upgrade to Vista," he said.

"If it had worked perfectly, it would have been great. Unfortunately, it didn't

work out that way."

Rosoff said the feature is the result of new voice-recognition APIs

(application programming interfaces) Microsoft is building into Vista that will

allow users to dictate instead of type content into Office applications such as

Word and PowerPoint.

Microsoft's public relations firm said Monday that the company would not

comment on the failed demo.

IVR is just one of a host of enhancements that will be available in Windows

Vista, which Microsoft executives said at FAM is still on track to be available

to business customers in November, and consumers in January 2007. However, the

company seemed to hint that Vista's release could slip again, as Kevin Johnson,

co-president of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division, said at the meeting

that the OS will not ship until "it's ready," even if that means it does not

meet the current targets for release.

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