Giving voice a positive Spin

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Data and convergence are becoming hot favourites for boosting revenue, with plain voice sales often seen as a spent force. But UK-based voicemail-to-text application provider SpinVox says its widened portfolio of services will bring the focus back to voice by enhancing what handsets were made for in the first place – talking.

SpinVox co-founder Daniel Doulton has a theory that makes a lot of sense – you can talk nine times faster than you can read, and you can talk while doing almost anything. “It’s difficult to put data into phones beyond a few sentences,” he says. “Phones are best for speaking, and SpinVox works to this strength. It’s time effective, because people can use it while they are walking or driving.”

Perhaps that’s why he’s so confident SpinVox, which made its name by launching a service to convert voicemails into easy to read text messages, will capture 100 million users worldwide by the end of 2009, through ‘talk’ applications encompassing blogging, personal broadcasts, text messages, emails, memos and missed call text alerts. With 200,000 users signed up globally so far – 150,000 of those in the UK – he has his work cut out.

Plans already in place

“Although we only have a few hundred thousand users worldwide now, we have spent massive amounts of time planning for this scale,” says Doulton. “Our products will deliver carriers more business, as they will generate new revenue for voice. This is a big innovation, because the only voice products available now are tariffs. In addition, this will also generate more texts, which will also boost network profits.”

SpinVox’s voicemail-to-text service made its entrance into the UK market in 2005, primarily via Carphone Warehouse and The Link, but it is yet to be taken up en masse. Doulton, however, confirms that the company is engaged with Vodafone and that trials are also under way with two other UK networks.

As well as this, SpinVox has tried its hand in other markets and so far, so good. A similar deal with Vodafone in Spain is in the bag as of October 1. This year it has already partnered with several North American networks and wireless providers, as well as social network website Truemors and blogging company Six Apart, to allow their users to create voiceblogs from their mobile phones.

Also in the SpinVox portfolio are big names like VoIP provider Skype and BlackBerry smartphone manufacturer RIM, the latter of which it will provide with voice-to-screen messaging for its products.

However, SpinVox’s voicemail-to-text service seems like it will remain the company’s signature product. “It will change the way people message each other,” claims Doulton. “It can work as a two-way messaging system, rather than an interrupted conversation. Users will make more calls and texts as a result.”

While its roll-out so far has been largely in English-speaking markets, Doulton and co are looking to make it available in Portuguese and Italian in the near future. Portuguese, he says, will be a gateway to the Latin American market.

In English, the SpinVox system recognises 500,000 words, and being tuned towards colloquialisms, has a 97 per cent accuracy rate. “If you say something in a voicemail that it doesn’t know, in the text message there will be a question mark in brackets next to the word,” Doulton explains. “If it is completely unrecognisable, there will be an underscore for a missing word – it won’t just make a word up. You might put garbage in, but we won’t put garbage out.”

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