Have you ever sent an email that you wished could be destroyed after a specific period of time? Several firms are working on self-destructing email, so that companies and individuals can keep information on a short leash. All of the companies selling the new tools acknowledge that their solutions are far from perfect, but they expect organisations to buy the tools despite the flaws. They are trying to answer the concerns about casual office email messages that may be used against a company in litigation. There have been many instances in the anti-trust case against Microsoft; lawyers uncovered many flip and caustic emails in which staff used words like 'kill', 'pollute' and 'subvert' about competitors and their products. Microsoft countered with similar examples from rivals' email. Maclen Marvit, chief executive of Disappearing Inc, is building tools that manage the lifetime of email. So is Jeff Mulligan, chief technical officer of QVTech. 'A telephone message is kind of ephemeral; it just goes away,' Mulligan said. 'We're trying to capture that effect.' Infraworks is developing a tool called InTether, which provides the same long-term protection to all documents, not just email messages. This system is integrated with the Windows operating system to ensure that a document's creator can determine how many times a document is read or printed. Intel, which sees ebusiness as a way to sell expensive processors for servers, is selling $1bn (£625m) worth of chips a month online to PC vendors. That's nearly half its annual sales of roughly $30bn - a proportion that is expected to approach 100 per cent within a year. Intel chief Craig Barrett has been touting the web's explosive potential at trade shows. The strongest growth in ebusiness is expected to be among companies linked to each other. Cisco is pushing the same message. CEO John Chambers says its online sales are 70 per cent of total and will rise to 90 per cent by the end of 2001. Hewlett-Packard is gearing up to go the same way.
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