--Alan Zisman

Qualcomm's latest version of Eudora e-mailer
offers everything needed to stay connected - March 24 1998

Businesses dealing with heavy competition have to find a way to make their products stand out. While lower prices and flashy packaging help, it's good to have some steak behind the sizzle -- an approach adopted by many software developers who compete by creating products with ever more features and functions.

I'm sure many of you have used Qualcomm's Eudora Internet mail program. Qualcomm, a San Diego company primarily involved in digital wireless hardware (PCS cell phones, OmniTracs satelLight communications and tracking system, and more), initially developed Eudora as free e-mail software for Macintosh. The company later added versions for Windows 3.1, Windows 95/NT and even the Apple Newton. It also created a more feature-rich Eudora Pro version, while continuing to improve the free Eudora Light version.

Qualcomm now claims to have more than 18 million users, an impressive number aided by the distribution of the free version by many Internet Service Providers. But with capable mail software included with both Netscape and Microsoft's Web browsers, what's a company simply trying to sell e-mail software to do?

Qualcomm is rising to the challenge. It recently released new and improved versions of Eudora Pro, bringing the product up to version 4.0. At the same time, it's packed in enough features to justify calling it a suite -- Eudora Pro CommCenter -- while dropping the price to about $59.

The new version takes away what was the main competitive advantage of the Netscape and Microsoft mail programs -- the ability to send HTML Web pages as e-mail, complete with graphics and layout options. Eudora had looked drab and old-fashioned, with plain-text e-mail. Version 4 finally catches up with HTML support.

At the same time, it continues to offer powerful features not available in the browser add-in mail programs: easy to customize filters, for example, to sort and automate your mail; multiple "personalities," invaluable to users who juggle more than one e-mail address; integrated encryption, based on the Pretty Good Privacy standard, to ensure your messages' privacy.

You can even send and receive voice messages attached to your mail, though only when communicating to other Eudora users.

The CommCenter version goes beyond e-mail, however, trying to become your one-stop communications centre. It adds a collection of add-in programs to the e-mail core (which is still available as a separate, lower-priced product). Most of these build on third-party software and services which are included as free trial versions. For example, using the JFax program, you can set up a virtual office account in any of 25 cities worldwide, where fax and voice messages will be automatically rerouted to your Eudora message-box. Similarly, a variety of Internet-based news and information services can be set up to deliver directly to your mailbox. Other add-ins include iChat, for real-time Internet chat and TimeShift Conference Call for net-based phone conferences and paging. Note that you'll have to pay to continue any of these services beyond the varying length free trials provided by the CommCenter package.

The Light version (still in version 3) remains freely available, while the Pro version is available as a 30-day free demo at Qualcomm is also joining the host of companies (HotMail, Yahoo and more) offering free, browser-based e-mail with their new Web-Mail service. Here, you get an e-mail address on their server. Advertising keeps it a free service, which you can access from any computer with a Web browser -- from an airport kiosk or an Internet caf?, for example.

April, for many of us, is the cruelest time of year -- when the coming of spring is counterbalanced by the need to file tax returns.

Lots of companies offer tax-preparation software, among them Calgary-based CanTax (now owned by Softkey Software Products). They are probably best known for CanTax 98, this year's version of their standard personal tax-return software (about $39). They also sell The Canadian Tax Tutor, a product that tries to go one step further. While you can use the Tax Tutor software for help preparing your return, it really aims to help you learn about the Canadian tax system, with an eye towards planning and organization before tax season hits, to pay less on future returns.

The software, developed in conjunction with the Evelyn Jacks Institute, offers a dozen lessons ranging from RRSP planning to charitable donations, medical expenses and child care. The goal of the software is to make tax planning play a major role in wealth creation. The software sports an apt motto: What the taxman taketh, the software can help giveth back (1-800-265-4800;*

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan