Speech IVR Market Update
VoiceXML expert and consultant Jonathan Eisenzopf provides a summary of recent activity and trends in the speech IVR market.
Now that VoiceXML has been around and available for a couple years, some industry watchers are probably wondering where things are moving. Is this new speech IVR market segment healthy? Will VoiceXML replace proprietary development environments? Will the incumbent IVR vendors embrace speech and Web technologies? Is it safe to move to a VoiceXML system now or should I wait for SALT?
Incumbent IVRs Will Support VoiceXML
Edify, InterVoice-Brite, Nortel Periphonics, Avaya Conversant and Genesys all support VoiceXML in one form or another. The common approach is to allow the IVR call-flow diagramming tools to export the flows to VoiceXML. The VoiceXML output is processed by a VoiceXML interpreter and uses the same low level software to manage call-control as is used by the proprietary languages. This satisfies the needs of existing customers who are looking to migrate applications to VoiceXML and also provides an outlet for new customers to deploy VoiceXML applications using an established vendor.
Incumbent IVR VoiceXML Support Still Immature
While the incumbent IVR vendors have more experience and history in the marketplace, VoiceXML and speech recognition are still relatively new technologies for these companies compared to the old reliable touch-tone standard. Some IVR vendors are just now testing the waters with VoiceXML support.
With the exception of IBM, the VoiceXML implementations offered by the incumbent IVR vendors I mentioned above have only been made available to customers at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd quarter of 2002. There are few, if any, customers using these new implementations. Additionally, there will likely be some issues with the first versions of these VoiceXML browsers that products such as Voice Genie, IBM Voice Server and Nuance Voice Web Server have already shaken out near the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002.
If you need a VoiceXML platform now, I would recommend looking to one of the newer speech IVR companies or IBM, as they have more experience with speech. If you already have an IVR system from one of the incumbents and you can wait six months to a year for them to ramp up to full speech IVR support, I would recommend giving them a call to see if you can evaluate their VoiceXML functionality over the next few months to determine whether an upgrade would be beneficial for your organization.
VoiceXML Still Seen as Immature
Some IVR programmers and salespeople that I've talked with still see VoiceXML as an immature technology and are relaying the same message to their customers. There does seem to be interest from customers in VoiceXML and speech recognition which is driving vendors to adopt the new technology.
The Rift Between Telephony, Speech Recognition, and the Web is Still Gaping
VoiceXML brings together three distinct technologies (telephony, speech recognition, and Web) that have communities of technologists and practitioners which have traditionally stayed apart. These groups are now coming together in VoiceXML and there is quite a bit of clashing and difference of opinion based on each groups' background experience. I think this clash will go on for a while, but the result will be a new breed of practitioner that understands the range of technologies and issues that relate to each of the three technology practices.