Microsoft has publicly demonstrated a prototype of its Mipad web-enabled, voice-activated handheld device for the first time.
The product was unveiled at the software giant's Latin America Enterprise Solutions conference yesterday.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said Mipad - or the Multimodal Interactive Notepad - would integrate all the functions of wireless Windows CE applications, such as email, calendar and contacts, and that it will be voice-activated. He did not reveal any hardware details or when the product would ship commercially.
Company officials said the prototype currently runs on Microsoft's Windows CE client in a networked client-server configuration.
But Rob Enderle, an analyst at researcher Giga Information Group, said the wireless machine is based on a rewritten version of CE mobile operating system, which has not enjoyed spectacular market success so far.
"This is the best attempt to come up with the things CE didn't include initially. It's a more complete device," he said.
Enderle said Mipad includes a full Exchange client and an improved version of the Word word processing application. It is also much closer to what Windows CE should have been when it first shipped, he said.
"It would have been phenomenally successful, but the market has changed a lot since then. Microsoft has to make up for the fact that it didn't do it right the first time," he said.
The Mipad device is also based on so-called Dr Who interface technology, which is being developed by Microsoft's research group. The technology combines speech recognition and spoken language processing in a single interface.
Hsiao-Wuen Hon, senior researcher at Microsoft's speech technology group, said: "Computers are getting better at continuous speech recognition, hearing human speech and turning it to words on a screen. Mipad brings us the most interesting problems."
Hon specialises in acoustic modelling, which involves teaching machines to recognise speech as wave form patterns and matching them to patterns it already knows. He said Mipad is able to consider multiple versions of a user's spoken command.
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