Philips extends FreeSpeech retail reach

Philips extends FreeSpeech retail reach

The anticipated wave of retail customers investing in speech recognition has not yet hit the beach, but according to Philips Speech Processing (PSP) sales and marketing manager Graeme Pearson, it is building up.

The latest consumer speech recognition offering from Philips, FreeSpeech 2000, was launched in partnership with mass retailer Harvey Norman in August, and is said to be currently available in every Harvey Norman store. Unit sales of the consumer-targeted product have exceeded 1000, and Pearson revealed that Philips has made what he described as a huge retail investment in it.

This includes the extensive use of endcap display modules throughout many of the HN stores together with the wide use of catalogues and mass advertising. But the clearest indication of the product's viability is that it has now been picked up by specialist mass retailer distribution house Dataflow, extending its reach to thousands of retail outlets.

Pearson said that Philips had held direct discussions with major retailers such as Dick Smith Electronics and Coles Myer before appointing the distributor. He said that there was strong evidence that demand for the $249 and $349 Freespeech packages would meet the expectations of mainstream retailers as well as smaller PC businesses.

On top of the major promotional push for FreeSpeech 2000, which Pearson described as PSP's biggest investment in a product, the company has announced an offer of the superseded FreeSpeech 98 through Harvey Norman for $29.95, and a $10 cash-back on the purchase of the Philips SpeechMike. The SpeechMike incorporates a microphone, speaker and trackball.

Although he was unwilling to reveal sales volumes of FreeSpeech 2000, Pearson claimed that, with Dataflow coming on board, sales are meeting expectations and are on track to meet the target for the first 12 months.

Technological advantage

The Australian channel and many users have expressed cynicism about consumer speech recognition programs to date with many not meeting expectations, but Pearson affirmed that the Philips offering enjoys a substantial technological advantage. `Australia is one of the first countries to have the FreeSpeech 2000 product across the retail market, and only now are other vendors adding some of the features we've had all along,' he claimed.

While Pearson reported that PSP has recently secured its first major site for the industrial strength version SpeechPro, the added retail exposure of Philips FreeSpeech 2000 and its capacity to hold its price and make a return on its investment will no doubt attract the attention of those with an interest in speech recognition. By Tom Allen

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