Google, MS take voice, social-networking shots at each other

Google, Microsoft technology tussle going full speed

Google and Microsoft last week traded counter-punches over voice and social networking tools as the two continue to battle each other over emerging technologies.

Google Friday unveiled a voice recognition application for the iPhone that lets users speak search terms into the phone such as "restaurant." The technology is similar to voice recognition software for the BlackBerry that Microsoft introduced at the Web 2.0 conference in April via its TellMe subsidiary.

On the flip side, Microsoft on Thursday unveiled the Windows Live Wave 3 set of consumer services, a Live Wave API called Project Silkroad, and struck partnerships with social networking sites such as Flickr, PhotoBucket, Twitter and Yelp. The announcement came roughly a week after Google's OpenSocial celebrated its one-year anniversary.

OpenSocial is a set of APIs that let developers create applications that run across many social networking sites instead of having to create a version of the applications for each individual site.

With Windows Live, users will be able to share and interact with friends online and integrate data from their Live tools such as Live Hotmail, Live Photos and Live People.

Brian Hall, general manager for Windows Live, told the Los Angeles Times that Microsoft is trying to create a central hub where people can interact easily, whether sharing photos or planning events.

Google and Microsoft have been engaged in well-documented battles over search and advertising, online productivity applications and other areas as the hype about cloud computing is hitting a fever pitch.

With Google's free voice-recognition application users just have to ask a question and the sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google to be interpreted and moved onto the Google search engine.

Google executives told the New York Times that "location-based queries would make it possible to charge higher rates for advertisements from nearby businesses, for example, although it is not selling such ads now."

On its Tellme 2.0 platform, Microsoft uses GPS capabilities that provide for location-based searching. The voice interface introduced in April for the BlackBerry was an extension to Tellme's year-old mobile platform. The platform includes a range of voice-activated services from finding a business to checking traffic and weather.

Page Break

The client software portion of the platform initially will support the Blackberry 8800 series phones and Curve devices and Helios Mysto phones.

Tellme has been at voice recognition since it launched as a voice portal in 2000.

"The difference [from Google] comes in with the focus that we have," says Dariusz Paczuski, the head of Tellme's mobile division. "Speech recognition is hard to get right. We have been very successful focusing on specific problems we are trying to solve -- local, business search, sports."

The company added a stock service last month and powers 45% of the 411 in the United States.

"As soon as you broaden [your focus] and open it up you are prone to errors. It is a tough challenge technologically speaking," he says.

Users install a free browser-like application that communicates with the Web-based Tellme range of services. Google's voice service is an add-on to the search application it built for the iPhone.

On the social networking side, OpenSocial has the cooperation of some 20 social networks, including MySpace and LinkedIn, which have agreed to support applications built with the OpenSocial APIs. Developers have created nearly 8,000 OpenSocial applications.

Microsoft isn't so much trying to layer applications on top of social networking sites as much as it is trying to allow Windows Live users to unlock the vast amounts of data they have and use it across social networking sites.

Despite the drive by both for more openness, social networking pioneer Facebook has not agreed to participate in either effort.