An article in Speech Technology magazine reports that in the most recent update to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for IVRs, Microsoft Speech Server and Nuance Voice Portal got dropped. The disappearance of NVP is no surprise, since Nuance announced at their Conversations conference over two years ago that they would no longer enhance it.
Microsoft moved Speech Server into Office Communications Server last year, and really doesn’t seem to be promoting it as a standalone product, even though it can still be installed separately. Although I see virtually no push by Microsoft, or even their partners, to sell Speech Server into large contact centers, I’m still a little surprised Gartner dropped them.
We’ve been doing some testing on Speech Server at Voxify, and overall it works quite well. Getting it to work with our Asterisk-based PBX was a nightmare, but otherwise the install went pretty smoothly. Recognition performance using Microsoft’s ASR is generally similar to Nuance OSR, though recognition is very slow when doing nbest recognition for even medium sized values of n. Microsoft’s fairly faithful compliance with the VoiceXML standard (we find issues with every VXML browser vendor we have worked with) was another very pleasant surprise. The best surprise was the licensing costs. It is amazingly inexpensive considering the quantity and quality of features it includes.
One of my biggest concerns about Speech Server is that activity in discussion forums and blogs regarding the product has dwindled dramatically (at least in the places I have looked) over the last year. Without Microsoft pushing Speech Server, I think there will need to be pretty strong community support for it to gain a foothold. It would be really too bad if it ends up getting buried in the unified communication product line at Microsoft.
The rest of the report contained no surprises. Genesys is listed as the clear leader, and that is definitely what I have seen in the market. Acquiring VoiceGenie was a brilliant move on their part, and they have very good offerings for both enterprises and large VXML hosting providers. Nonetheless, there continue to be interesting developments at Nortel, Avaya and Voxeo, among others.