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Speak Easy Has the wireless Web met its match?

By Eric Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Now that voice portals have arrived, you make the call: Are theymerely a slight improvement over frustrating voice mail, or willthey emerge as a major new medium that rivals the wireless Web?

Voice-activated services such as BeVocal (800-4-B-VOCAL) andTellme Networks (800-555-TELL) have launched nationwide networks,providing voice-recognition menus where spoken keywords summonsound bites in either text-to-speech synthesis or recorded audio.Staples include news, sports, weather, stocks, traffic updates andmovie listings. Some services offer driving directions, horoscopes,personalization features and even text-to-speech e-mail. But voiceportals aren't really portals at all. Rather, they'redesigned to provide snippets from a fairly limited selection ofmajor content sources.

Start-ups have been piling on the trend, including,Audiopoint, HeyAnita, Mobilee, NetByTel, PhoneRun, TelSurfNetworks' 888TelSurf and Tellsoft Technologies' iTalkWeb.The Kelsey Group predicts the voice-portal industry will representa $12 billion "voice e-cosystem" by 2005, with more than$5.6 billion of that revenue generated from sales of theservices.

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