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But SALT’s backers must overcome several hurdles before channel surfing becomes a form of conversation. For vendors like Philips to sell SALT-enabled hardware, there have to be SALT applications. And that invites the question: With no SALT-enabled PDAs available at present, why should Web developers re-write existing apps?

“There’s a chicken and an egg situation,” admits Kassel. Still, he feels that corporate developers will support SALT because the applications will work on today’s PCs. A SALT application that works fine over a wired network needs no modifications for the wireless SALT-enabled PDAs of the future. Kooiman estimates that a person with a basic understanding of Web-based development could prototype a SALT application in two to three days. Adding SALT to an existing application might take as little as an hour.

Recent steps by software vendors indicate that progress is imminent. Microsoft has integrated a speech software developer kit into Visual Studio .NET. “Speech development becomes drag and drop,” says James Mastan, director of marketing for .NET speech technologies at Microsoft.2

The platforms to use these applications are also coming into place. Philips has a SALT-enabled browser ready. Carnegie Mellon University is preparing an open source version. Microsoft expects to release a SALT-enabled version of Pocket IE sometime in the first half of 2003.

To mollify some critics that SALT has been developed without public input, the SALT Forum, an organizing body founded in October, 2001 and who completed the SALT 1.0 specification on July 15, is submitting the specification to a standards body.

Still, proponents have wildly different ideas of which SALT application will be most useful. The varied answers may indicate a standard with a broad appeal. Or it may mean that the industry has yet to find the single killer app that will get everyone talking to their PDAs.

Corrections:

  1. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified a standard for voice-enabled telephone interfaces as XML. The standard is VoiceXML.
  2. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Microsoft integrated a beta version of the speech SDK into Business Studio. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the speech SDK is integrated into Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET.

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