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Speech data mobile to cost less than $500

First systems out by year end

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A mobile handset which uses Lernout & Hauspie speech technology and Intel's StrongArm chip, is set to debut before Christmas this year and will cost less than $500.

Gaston Bastiaens, CEO of the Belgian-based company, refused to be drawn on which company would make the first device, but did say that his firm expected to license the technology to a number of players, including mobile manufacturers and consumer firms.

The device, called Nak, after the first three letters of a Hawaiian word meaning echo, allows speech input and speech output, and also uses L&H speech technology to read out emails waiting in users' mail boxes. Initial models will have an active vocabulary of 30,000 words and Bastiaens said that the unit, which uses a 200MHz StrongArm chip and needs 128MB of memory, will also allow Web access.

The display demoed by L&H does not use menu systems, and instead relies solely on a speech interface. Partnerships the firm will sign with other companies were likely to be the biggest factor in driving revenues, Bastiaens said.

But L&H will also produce a model of the Nak unit itself, although it is likely to be manufactured by a third party. "We won't compete with the major players in telephony with it," he said.

The major rollout for devices will be in the first quarter of next year, he said, and L&H is currently in the process of preparing software development kits and API specifications for customers.

The device is OS independent, and Bastiaens said that while the product he was showing used the Linux operating system, it would work just as well on Microsoft CE platforms. "We'll support any operating system from any company that finds us interesting," he said. ®

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