There has been quite a bit "close to source" (news) speculation floating around today about Microsoft purchasing Tellme. This article from the SJ Mercury News even posted a sales price of $800M. With this exact of a number, it sounds like more than speculation.
Without doing the financial analysis, it's hard for me to say if $800M is the correct price – probably hard for anyone to assess given how nascent the voice recognition/text to voice markets are. Aside from the price, Microsoft has purchased a solid technology company with a high quality product. I've used it on Cingular. You can also use the short code TELLM or 83556.
They also have a 1-800 number – 1 800 555 TELL that is an information portal. It's pretty impressive from an engineering standpoint in terms of how they construct sentences from a combination of words and phrases.
The SJ Mercury didn't have a lot more from the "people close to the deal" in terms of what Microsoft has planned. It's not hard to imagine some of the scenarios. Accessibility on computers is becoming increasingly important with an aging population. It brings Tellme into the computer world.
The SJ Mercury also pointed out the mobile search aspects.
Mobile search is an interesting topic that we've written a lot about. There is a lot of potential in this market both from the standpoint of licensing software/platform as well as paid search/advertising revenue. Unlike the PC, inputting search terms on a phone is hard. We've seen Google invest in visual recognition technologies i.e., send in a photo of what you are seeking. (Imagine the implications in tourist locations). Voice is another input mechanism.
They also extend their reach – Microsoft has a search deal with Sprint. Tellme has at least one deal with Cingular. There are few if any applications or services more interesting to mobile subscribers than directory assistance – something Tellme does well on the phone and Microsoft in browser form.
It wasn't that along ago that Infospace and FAST announced their partnership. "Bridging the PC and phone experiences" … sound familiar? We're seeing the beginnings of these silos disappearing.
The report that I wrote this winter about mobile search talked about "mobile search silos." Hopefully next year's will talk about how well the integration is going.