Earlier this week I attended a Microsoft workshop on Unified Communications. The workshop included a bunch of information on how Microsoft’s UC strategy is targeting the market, and how Office Communications Server 2007, Office Communicator, and Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging fit into that strategy.
One thing struck me during the Unified Messaging demonstrations.
- Exchange can read your email and calendar information to you over the phone
- Exchange can recognise your speech when you are doing things like looking up names in the directory, or when you are issuing commands such as having Exchange notify meeting attendees that you are running 10 minutes late
- Exchange can record voice messages and deliver them to mailboxes as audio files
- Exchange can’t (or doesn’t) record voice messages and deliver them to mailboxes in text format
The last one seems like a bit of an oversight to me. If Exchange Server 2007 is capable of the first three, especially the voice recognition, it doesn’t seem to me like a huge leap to have it take a voice message and translate that into text using the same speech recognition engine that works so well for Outlook Voice Access and features such as Auto-Attendants.
This capability would have two immediate advantages for the end user:
- Voicemail messages can be read in scenarios where playback on the computer or telephone is not possible or practical
- Voicemail messages are delivered in text format for the hearing impaired
It may mean more server resources are required, but in larger UM deployments you are already throwing a lot of CPU into the solution to handle the processing of voice commands and voicemail messages. A little more CPU to translate audio to text might not be that big a deal to cater for what is usually (in my experience) only a few people who are going to require the functionality all of the time.
Maybe it could be set as a per-user option for HA people, and for everyone else appears as a “Translate to text” link in the voicemail item in Outlook. Maybe it could even be delivered as an add-on for Outlook itself, which would avoid any load issues on the UM servers for this functionality.
Maybe there is already third party solutions out there. If anyone knows about them please drop me a line or leave a comment.