World Premieres Top RetailVision Presentations

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RetailVision's World Premiere events were once again the platform for companies unveiling their latest products and technologies to the retail channel.

Four companies - Corel, IBM, Iomega and Lernout & Hauspie - participated in the World Premieres during the recent RetailVision Spring '99 and RetailVision Europe '99, held together at the Hilton Hotel & Towers in San Francisco. Following the trend of the fall event, voice-recognition products took center stage, as both IBM and Lernout & Hauspie unveiled new speech products.

Following are details of World Premieres announcements:

At IBM's event, Star Trek's Chief Engineer Scotty (James Doonan in real life) added some star power as the company featured its Via Voice voice recognition products. New for 1999 is Online Companion, which takes voice recognition to the web and upgrades IBM's Via Voice line.

A promotion running through June 30 gives a $50 rebate to consumers who purchase the Online Companion at $19.95 and the Via Voice Executive at $149. Those who purchase the Online Companion with the $89 Via Voice Office get a $40 rebate, and those who purchase Online Companion and Via Voice Home at $49.95 get a $25 rebate.

Also new from IBM Speech is a mobility solution that allows users to talk into a handheld recording device that uses flash memory. It looks much like a microcassette recorder but is slimmer. The user then inserts the flash memory card into the PC's PCMCIA slot. A couple of these recording devices are expected be offered later this year.

Online Companion is available now, and the portable products are slated to be introduced this fall.

For Corel's World Premiere, the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey and a group of apes helped the company take the audience through the history of communications while announcing that "It's Time" for Corel Draw 9 and WordPerfect Office 2000.

Noting that there are 10 million users of Corel Draw and 35 million users of WordPerfect worldwide, Corel representatives demonstrated some of the updated capabilities of Corel Draw 9, including full Internet publishing capability. The suite also includes Corel Photo Paint and Quattro Pro.

The street price for Corel Draw is $189 and includes Corel Draw 9, Photo Paint 9, Canto Cumulus 4.0, Bitstream Font Navigator 3.0, Microsoft visual Basic for Applications 6, Corel Texture, Corel Trace, Corel Capture and Corel Script. The Professional version is $349.

Corel Photo Paint 9 is $99 and offers features such as artistic media brush tools, easy file sharing, and the ability to publish directly to the Internet.

WordPerfect Standard is scheduled to sell for $99, or $149 with voice-recognition software from Dragon Systems.

The Professional version, at $199, includes WordPerfect 9 with Dragon Naturally Speaking, Quattro Pro 9, Corel Presentations 9, CorelCENTRAL 9, Trellix 2, Corel Print Office, paradox 9, and NetPerfect automated web publishing.

All are slated to be available in May and will be rolled out with a "huge retail rollout" including a road show in 34 cities, said Corel representatives.

To underscore the importance of Lernout & Hauspie's "Global Premiere" of two new voice-recognition products - VoiceXpress Version 4 and VoiceXpress Mobile - Tech trainer Gary Saxer rewarded audience members responding to questions by tossing globes into the crowd.

VoiceXpress Version 4 will be offered this June in three flavors: L&H VoiceXpress Professional ($179); VoiceXpress Advanced ($99); and VoiceXpress Standard ($49).

Version 4 is the latest generation of continuous speech-recognition software and offers enhanced support for Intel's Pentium III processor and Microsoft Office 2000. New features allow VoiceXpress to offer faster enrollment time and reduce misrecognitions by up to 25%. The software also includes an improved language model and vocabularies.

"L&H VoiceXpress Version 4 is fast, friendly, and offers maximum accuracy and the best integration with MS Office 2000," Saxer said. "VoiceXpress Version 4 makes speech recognition work for everyone."

VoiceXpress Mobile Professional, which bundles VoiceXpress Version 4 with Olympus's DS150 digital voice recorder, allows users to dictate notes into the recorder when traveling and then use VoiceXpress to transcribe the recorded files into text.

The Mobile Professional includes software that adapts to the environment by listening to background noise and making adjustments automatically to ensure consistent quality. The package, which also includes L&H's XpressRecorder utility, is expected to be available at the end of June at a street price of $229.

Iomega's World Premiere was closed to members of the press unless they were willing to sign an open-ended non-disclosure form, a policy that TWICE does not adhere to. According to a retailer exiting the event, Iomega announced it was readying an internal version of its Clik! 40MB drive technology, which would make it suitable for use in digital cameras or handheld devices. The company also reportedly announced a new storage technology. - Reporting by Martha McDonald, Jamie Sorcher & James K. Willcox

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