As previously rumored, Microsoft is apparently in talks to buy Tellme Networks, the voice services and automated directory assistance (DA) provider. TellMe has an enterprise business, which would be of value to Microsoft. But such an acquisition would immediately make Microsoft a potentially major player in the emerging ad-supported directory assistance (DA) market and speech-enabled mobile search.
As I’ve written before the free DA model is “mobile local search for the rest of us.” Tellme’s voice assets and speech interface more broadly could be used by Microsoft to help the company differentiate in local search on mobile devices and in potentially other ways.
Tellme currently provides enhanced DA services for Cingular/AT&T, Tellme by Mobile and the recently launched Business Search with voice reviews on its long standing consumer voice portal 1-800-555-Tell.
Microsoft has lots of speech recognition and voice processing assets internally but the company must have felt that Tellme was farther along in critical areas and so it made sense to buy rather than build or extend what it already had. Reportedly the deal would value Tellme at $800 million.
At ResourceShelf, Gary Price has put together a great roundup of speech services including from Microsoft.