Following its acquisition last month of Kurzweil Applied Intelligence Inc (CI No 3,141), Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV says that its efforts to bring to market a large-vocabulary continuous speech dictation product will be accelerated by about six months. What was once a target date of mid-1998 for the next- generation speech recognition technology, is now late 1997. The company says it plans to aim the product at vertical markets first – namely the medical and legal professions – as it feels that both the prohibitive price of the software (around $800) and the system requirements needed to run it (133MHz Pentiums and up; 24-36Mb of RAM) make a mass market launch foolhardy. L&H sees the professional market as far more likely to have the cash and the hardware to absorb the products at first. This line of thinking is somewhat opposite that of Dragon Systems, which launched its continuous speech product, NaturallySpeaking, for the mass market in April (CI No 3,133) with a similar price tag ($700) and the roughly the same system requirements as the proposed L&H software. Professional editions, available for $1000, are due later this year. It remains to be seen which concept of mass market will translate into sales, although Dragon, which will have two versions of its product on the market before L&H has one, would seem to have an edge. And immediate mass market sales may not have been the driving force behind Dragon’s launch of NaturallySpeaking. An executive at the company implied that Dragon launched the product for the mass market first because it could, saying that the real challenge in developing a continuous speech product is to create a general, flexible application for mass market use. Once this problem is solved, the executive said, it is relatively easy to rewrite the software for professional markets. Thus, he feels that Dragon is two generations ahead of the competition in the speech recognition field.