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March 14, 2007

Microsoft acquiring Tellme, pushing voice interface

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:34 AM

After rumors circulated in CNET, The Wall Street Journal and other publications earlier this week, Microsoft this morning announced its plans to buy Tellme Networks, which combines voice interface with a broad range of Internet data.

Microsoft is talking big about the potential of Mountain View, Calif., based Tellme's technology and expertise.

"Speech is universal, simple and holds incredible promise as a key interface for computing," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a press release announcing the acquisition. "Tellme brings to Microsoft the talent, technology and proven experience in speech that will enable us to deliver a new wave of products and revolutionize human-computer interaction."

The press release does not disclose a sales price, but The Journal and other publications quoted anonymous sources saying the acquisition was worth close to $800 million.

The companies are talking about the deal on a conference call now.

Microsoft says it could potentially incorporate Tellme technology into voice-enabled customer service functions in concert with its unified communications products; mobile search; and opportunities for third-party developers.

Privately held Tellme will become part of the Microsoft Business Division, headed by Jeff Raikes. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. The company's 320 employees will continue working in Mountain View, according to the press release.

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