ISSUE 558: ALAN
ZISMAN- July 4 2000
message systems simplify
If you want to get in touch
me, you could try my home phone number or my work number. (Which one?
There's the receptionist at the office, the direct line, my voice mail,
and others for various jobs I do.)
Or you could try one of several fax
numbers. Or a half-dozen or so e-mail accounts, not counting the ones
that are no longer operational.
And I don't even have a pager or a
I suspect that most of you have an
equally tangled web of connections. And, like me, you probably spend a
fair part of your day just checking and following up on messages.
So I suppose it shouldn't be much of a
surprise that services are springing up, promising -- for a price -- to
make it easier to stay on top of our messages. Here are two very
different options that I've tried out recently.
is a wireless messaging provider, claiming more than 9 million
subscribers in the U.S. (275,000 in Can-
ada). Recently, the company has begun to offer a number of services
combining e-mail with the more traditional paging. I spent a couple of
weeks with a complimentary account for their high-end unit, a Motorola
Under the hood, this little clam-shell
is an actual 486 computer, complete with 4.5 MB of RAM. It would
have been a powerful desktop machine in, say, 1993. Like the popular
palm-sized computers, it's got a to-do list and address book, and can
be synced to your desktop computer. It seemingly runs forever on its
batteries, recharging itself when it sits in its cradle. Unlike the
palm-top units, it comes with a mini-QWERTY keyboard and wirelessly
receives and sends e-mail. E-mails can be sent directly to another
PageNet customer's text pager. And if you have access to an Internet
fax service, you can send messages direct to a recipient's fax machine.
I was pleasantly surprised how quickly and smoothly messages were
It was a simple matter to set up my
main e-mail account to automatically forward copies of my mail to the
PageWriter's e-mail address. As a re-
sult, it buzzed and vibrated throughout the day as my e-mail followed
me throughout the Lower Mainland. Or, to be exact, the first 500
characters of my messages followed me. I could check messages while
stopped at a red light, though I didn't dare try to type a response
Pricing varies with the hardware unit
rented and with the number of messages. The top of the line PageWriter
costs $59.95 a month with 200 messages or $99.95 for 500 messages.
Additional messages are $0.20 each.
More affordable are keyboard-less
AccessLink II from Vancouver's Glenayre, starting at $29.95 a
month and Motorola's PF1500, for as little
as $25.95 a month. At the low-end you only get the first four lines of
your message, and are limited to a preprogrammed reply.
While PageNet is building Internet
connectivity into their existing paging network, Toronto/Bahama-based Conexys
conexys.com) offers one-stop connectivity through its Web site.
Signing on for a $29-per-month iCommand account gets you a local
(Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal) phone number that can be used to
receive voice messages and fax, and that becomes the basis for yet
another e-mail address.
All these messages, regardless of
data-type, can be accessed from the Conexys Web page. Besides letting
users read and reply to e-mail, faxes can be viewed in the bottom pane.
Voicemail messages are stored as RealAudio files and can be played, as-
suming you have the free RealPlayer installed.
Unlike PageNet's service, I couldn't
check my iCommand messages while driving, which is probably a good
thing. I could, however, use it to access e-mail, voicemail and faxes
from any computer connected to the Web, anywhere in the world,
potentially a useful service to anyone who spends a lot of time out of
the office. *