Test versions of two Microsoft products, one used for telecommunications applications and the next version of Windows CE, the mobile OS (operating system), were made available yesterday.

The company released betas for Microsoft Speech Server 2007 and Windows CE 6.0, both of which are expected to be available in full release later this year.

Companies use Microsoft's Speech Server to build voice-recognition and IVR (interactive voice response) applications. Windows CE is a stripped-down version of Windows for products such as set-top boxes and GPS-based devices.

Microsoft has said its goals for Speech Server 2007, the second major release of the product, are to make it easier for developers to build speech applications and ensure those applications provide a satisfying user experience. Customers still find current IVR and speech-recognition applications difficult to communicate with.

One feature in the Speech Server 2007 beta that Microsoft hopes will help developers reach those goals is native VoIP (voice over IP) support. Previously, customers needed third-party VoIP hardware in order to deploy a Speech Server-based application over IP phones.

The test preview also includes support for VoiceXML (Voice Extensible Markup Language), a development standard for voice applications. Developers building voice recognition and speech applications use either Salt (Speech Application Language Tags) or VoiceXML as part of the development of those programs, Microsoft said. Previously, the company only supported Salt natively in Speech Server.

Microsoft is still accepting applications for the Speech Server 2007 beta scheme. The company expects hundreds of testers to join the project but is not providing an exact number of participants.

With Windows CE 6.0, developers for the first time will have the development tool available as a plug-in for Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 toolset, Microsoft said. That feature can be tested with the beta, which was released Tuesday to device makers, developers and partners at Microsoft's Mobile & Embedded DevCon 2006 in Las Vegas.

Microsoft has also redesigned the OS kernel in Windows CE 6.0 to allow from 32 to 32,000 processes to run simultaneously on it. This feature will allow developers to add larger numbers of applications to devices that run Windows CE. Previously, the OS could run as many as 32 processes simultaneously.

More information about the Speech Server 2007 beta can be found here.

More information about Windows CE 6.0 can be found here.