Software makes e-mail available over the phone

Infinite Technologies unveiled a messaging product last week that will allow PC users working outside the office to listen and reply to e-mail messages via the telephone.

Called Infinite Voice, the product makes it possible to listen, forward and respond to e-mail messages from any Touch-Tone phone. It also notifies users of incoming calls via e-mail and forwards e-mail messages to a fax machine.

Infinite Voice uses text-to-speech technology to "read" users their e-mail messages and then gives them the option to delete, reply to or forward the message. Users can reply to an e-mail message and attach a voice-mail message to it.

The product should appeal to government users who travel a lot, said Allan Carter, the marketing director at Infinite Technologies, Owings Mills, Md. "You don't have to change the entire system; you just add to the existing [e-mail] system, and it's not so expensive that you need to get a mandate from the president to buy it," Carter said. "I think it will appeal to anyone that is out of the office a lot."

Infinite Voice supports a wide variety of messaging products and standards, including Internet Message Access Protocol 4, Post Office Protocol 3, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, Microsoft Corp.'s Mail and Exchange, Lotus Development Corp.'s cc:Mail and Notes, and Infinite Technologies' Connect2 e-mail system. Competing products, such as those from Novell Inc. and Octel Communications Corp., do not offer such broad support, he said. "Our technology is based on open standards. We're not making you go down a proprietary path."

In addition, Infinite Technologies emphasizes that Infinite Voice, at $249 for 10 users, is less expensive than providing remote users with a laptop and a modem. "We've done a lot of traveling, and we know how expensive it can be in terms of connection time and in finding a place to connect," Carter said. With Infinite Voice, the user can use a pay phone, an office phone or a cell phone.

System requirements for Infinite Voice include a standard phone line, a PC with a 90 MHz Pentium processor with 24M of memory, a Telephone Application Programming Interface-compliant voice modem or telephony card, and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0. To use the system, a person dials an assigned phone number and then logs in using an ID and a password to access his mailbox.

Many products are starting to appear in this market niche as the idea of universal messaging catches on, said Sara Radicati, president of The Radicati Group Inc., a market research firm based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"There are many different definitions of unified messaging, but the concept is a single mailbox for voice and e-mail and [paging]," she said. "[So] it becomes important to take an e-mail message and read it to voice. This is starting to take off now because of this concept of unified messaging."

The product will be available July 1 directly from the company and through resellers. Meanwhile, 30-day trial versions will be available at www.InfiniteMail.

com. The company counts among its users the National Institutes of Health, the Navy, the Army and Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

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