Review: Tellme Studio (Part I)
Tellme Studio is hosted VoiceXML Platform which allows developers to develop and test VoiceXML based Applications. So far in our product review section, we have reviewed tools which reside on the desktop and provide an integrated development, debugging and/or simulation environment for building and testing VoiceXML based speech applications. Some of these tools utilize the power of a multimedia PC and desktop speech recognition and text-to-speech engines to simulate an interactive speech development environment. However, for the most part we are still in the "simulated" state.
A web-based VoiceXML development platform such as Tellme Studio, on the other hand provides an external VoiceXML gateway and a configuration application to connect live telephony numbers/extensions with the VoiceXML based telephony applications. So for instance, lets say you have developed a VoiceXML application which is running on your favorite web/application server with a URL (http://myserver/myapp/maindialog.jsp).
One of two things can happen: either you have already tested this application on your local desktop based VoiceXML IDE or you would like to test this application through a live phone based interface to see how consumers will interact with it. Typically, this end-user oriented testing would give you additional information (usage patterns/settings) which you can use to tweak your application as well. Also, this sort of an interface provides you with another benefit - the ability to demo your application to consumers, beta/alpha test it or even pilot it before you invest in your own VoiceXML gateway to deploy your VoiceXML application.
Hopefully the discussion so far throws clarity into the roles desktop IDE and hosted VoiceXML gateways play. Let's come back to Tellme Studio. Tellme Studio features a number of online tools targeted for VoiceXML Application Development. The studio is divided into two main sections - MyStudio and MyExtensions. MyStudio represents the key component of Tellme Studio. It features a number of tools including Online scratchpads, syntax validator, VoiceXML terminal, grammar scratchpad, debug log, grammar phrase checker, phrase generator and DTMF generator. MyExtensions on the other hand features a configuration screen where the developer can expose his/her own studio environment into a public extension of the Tellme Voice Portal.
As we have discussed, Tellme Studio is a hosted development environment, so we don't really have any installation apart from the fact that we need a PC with a browser connected to the Internet. Whereas through the scratchpad (discussed in the next section), Tellme does allow users to host temporarily pieces of VoiceXML content in the Tellme Studio, you may also think about getting access to a web server, whose port 80 (or HTTP) is outside the firewall. This will allow you to modify your static/dynamic VoiceXML application without relying on a scratchpad. Also, if your application is divided into multiple components--VoiceXML documents, prompts, grammars--you definitely would need to have access to a web server. Just as you host web applications, you have the flexibility of either utilizing the capabilities of your company's internal hosting capability or use a third-party web hosting provider.