Soon consumers will be able to collect all their messages, from answer machine messages to email, over a touchtone landline phone, mobile phone or the Internet, but it does not guarantee to cut out information overload.
The newly available Vivao service diverts callers voice, fax and email messages via a personal number to either a phone or your email box. To retrieve messages the user dials either via the Internet or phone, taps in a Pin number and messages are electronically read back. Messages, including emails, can be responded to by voice.
Fax messages cannot be read back, they have to be forwarded to either a PC or a fax machine. If you have several email addresses, Vivao can collect all your messages and put them in one box.
If a user chooses they can be alerted when new messages come in. Messages can be filtered, so you can request that you are only alerted if any urgent messages come through.
The Vivao service was launched today for business users at subscriptions of #.9.95 or #19.95, depending on the level of service required. A stripped down version of the service, which will include a sports, financial and news feed, will be available to consumers from the beginning of June, Simon Cordell, president of Vivao said.
Cordell believes that Vivao?s big attraction is that it does not change the way people work. They can use same email addresses and phone numbers they already have. Vivao is, however, planning to launch a free Internet service similar to Dixons Freeserve in June for consumers who are not already on the Internet or who are looking to change ISPs.
Cordell is confident that both businesses and consumers will be happy to pay for a unifying message service. ?Our lives are getting more complicated, there is more to juggle - it is not just a question of price, it is the fact that all messaging goes to one core centre that saves so much time,? he explained.
Initially Vivao?s consumer service will be charged via separate mobile phone billing. Consumers will pay a small amount to send and retrieve messages via the service.
Cordell confirmed, however, that it is talking to a number of household names, Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to bundle Vivao with their products.
Vivao is already working with mobile phone chain Phones4U and Internet service provider Uunet.
Vivao is also rumoured to be talking to several of the big supermarket chains as well as the large free Internet services that have launched, including the Sun?s Currant Bun. Cordell declined to comment.
Market research company Ovum estimates that the newly hatched market for unified messaging will be worth $31 billion by 2006.
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