Deaf Leopard

A true Apple fanatic will tell you that everything your Windows machine can do, Apple did first or does better. The worst part: The fanatic is often right.

But when it comes to speech recognition, Microsoft is way out front. Microsoft shipped Windows Vista to consumers last January with a heavy-duty voice recognition system that allows it to do far more than just recognize simple voice commands--as Leopard does. Sure, it's hardly perfect...

But, when it works, the ambitious effort also allows users to dictate entire documents. And Microsoft is building speech recognition into more than just computers. Ford's new Sync system, built with help from Microsoft, gives drivers the ability to control their electronics and even dictate text messages from the driver's seat. It is part of an effort by Microsoft to extend its software far beyond the desktop.