Who Provides Voice Portals?
The voice portal industry is still emerging, with business plans changing fast and the prospect of mergers and shake-ups ahead. Today, start-up voice portal companies, Web portals, and network service providers typically provide voice portal services.
Start-up Voice Portal Companies
These companies' basic business is building, hosting, and marketing voice portal services targeted to particular audiences. An example is HeyAnita*, whose voice portal provides a different mix of information services directly to businesses and consumers. HeyAnita debuted its services in the fall of 2000.
A second kind of provider is a traditional Internet portal looking to extend its reach over the phone. For example, AOL recently purchased Quack.com* to allow people to access AOL by telephone. It's easy to understand the advantages of voice enabling a Web portal. As Kathy Kinney, MapQuest* Director of Business Development, told the Wall Street Journal†: "As a dot-com, our reach was limited to those who got to the Internet through some type of techie device. We looked at the phone service and said 'Holy cow, this is the way we can reach the neighbor across the street through the phone in her kitchen that she's been using all her life.'" (†Wall Street Journal*, June 20, 2000)
Network Service Providers
The third major category of voice portal service provider is telecommunications or Internet service providers (ISP). These providers are looking to build customer loyalty and maximize network usage with branded portal services they host in the network or obtain from third-party suppliers. For example, Talk2.com* is partnering with wireless companies that want to add value to their packages.
Telera*, Netbytel*, and iBasis* are all examples of hosting service providers that allow ISPs and start-up voice portal companies to extend enhanced services using voice—without having to build and maintain the technology infrastructure. The ISP does not need to be an expert in a particular technology or application like speech recognition or telecommunications. Instead, the ISP can concentrate on launching new services and growing its business. These hosting service providers are all based on Intel® technology, which allows them to scale and change to meet an ISP's growing needs. In short, an ISP can select the best-of-breed application that fits its business model and stay focused on attracting and locking in customers, not on maintaining technology.
† Wall Street Journal*, June 20, 2000
* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.