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    Rogers unveils voice-to-text messaging  
    Financial Post  
   

David George-Cosh

 
    December 12, 2007  
   

Since the days of switchboards and secretaries, the voice mail has evolved to become an integral part of communicating, even if you have to punch in a combination of buttons to listen to your messages.

Now, Rogers Wireless is looking to make returning calls slightly faster and easier, with a new voice-to-text messaging service the company unveiled Tuesday.

For the price of $15 per month, Rogers will be able to take any English or French phone messages you might have missed and process it using automated software powered by SpinVox, a U.K.-based firm, that transcribes it to a text message and is sent to your cell phone or other wireless device.

Rogers Wireless vice-president of business marketing Irv Witte says the service is aimed for the mobile user who experiences anywhere between 60 to 100 voice mails each month. He also tried to put aside fears about how accurate the service may be, citing that SpinVox is able to convert upwards of 90% of all speech into legible text.

"We've had several hundred people testing this out and have had no complaints about accuracy at all," Mr. Witte said. "It's almost frightening how good it is at translating."

The service is only available in seven provinces right away, but Rogers plans to launch the service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba early next year.

A potential drawback is not getting the entire message. According to an IBM-funded research study, the average voice mail lasts about 31 seconds, longer than the 18 seconds maximum for the SpinVox service.

That may leave the door open for New York-based Simulscribe to make its own splash in the Canadian market. Chief executive James Siminoff says Simulscribe will be launching its own voice-to-data service today with a competing plan that offers Canadians on any cell phone plan unlimited message transcriptions regardless of how long as the voice mail lasts for $30 per month.

"Rich, poor, no matter who you are in the workforce, everybody needs to have voice mail, " said Mr. Siminoff,

As Hoey Associates Management Consultants Inc. senior partner Eamon Hoey puts it, voice mail is just another technology whose innovation is driven by the need for more time.

"The technology is really driving us to look for more efficiencies in our human production," said Mr. Hoey. "We're now mechanizing functions that was very routine, like leaving a voice mail."

But SeaBoard analyst Amit Kaminer says that Rogers customers may balk at the monthly fee Rogers is charging on top of their "enhanced" voice mail option.

"This is an incremental cost," said Mr. Kaminer. "It's a little bit expensive when you need to already have an $8 voice mail plan."

 


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