by May 1, 1999 0 comments

Developed by Tata Infotech, this system lets users listen
to their e-mail over the phone. Comp- rising Windows software and a plug-in hardware card,
it uses voice synthesis to read out the e-mail.

This is great for those who are often away from their PCs
and networks. Their e-mail is just a phone call away. The software is aimed at ISPs, who
can provide this feature as an added service, as well as at large corporate users. Its
built-in POP3 client logs into the users’ POP3 servers and reads the mail.

Call-Mail uses a Dialogic voice-fax ISA card, and a
text-to-speech engine to convert the e-mail to voice. It’s very easy to set up. Nor
is it demanding on hardware requirements: a P133 with 32 MB will work, though a better
system is recommended. There are a few settings to make. Set up the mail servers, add
users, give them their phone IDs and passwords, start the service, and you’re ready
to go.

The text-to-speech engine uses phonetics to read the mail,
and the speech is mostly intelligible. When it’s not, the speed, pitch, or volume of
the voice can be varied: the user does this by pressing keys on his phone’s keypad.
But Call-Mail doesn’t give the user any “online help” on these options.

Ten voices are available to read the e-mail, but users
cannot choose from these. The administrator must select and set a voice, and Call-Mail has
to be restarted if the voice is changed.

Call-M@il v1.0

Software and plug-in card
for ISPs or large offices; reads out e-mail over the phone. Price: Four
channels with fax Rs 400,000 (50 users), Rs 465,000 (100 users), Rs
500,000
(200 users)

Features: Supports ten voices, mail faxing, and voice-mail recording and
attachment.

Pros:
Reads mailbox details and lets you jump to any message number, or skip a message
or parts of it, or delete/undelete specific messages. Quick operation: cut through the
prompts if you know the commands, to save time and money on a call.

Cons:
Voices are not user-selectable. Could do with more “online help” user
prompts, such as for the key commands to change volume, pitch, and speed of the voice
reading out the mail.

Source:
Tata Infotech, Manish Commercial Center, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai
400025. Tel: 22-4933560, Fax: 4950318

The software has several neat features. When you call
the service, in addition to listening to your e-mail, you can have it faxed to the number
you specify. You can “cut through” the voice prompts to quickly reach your mail,
without listening to menu commands that you already know. You can skip messages, or jump
ahead by words and sentences to listen to specific parts of a message, when you’re in
a hurry.

Call-Mail works very well with tone dialing. To use it with
pulse, you need another software utility, provided free by Tata Infotech on demand. Any
such system is less consistent with pulse; but most phone handsets do have tone dialing,
and even if you’re calling from a pulse area, you can press the * key for Tone when
you connect to the system.

The software is well designed, with e-mail user habits in
mind. It first reads out the mailbox size and the number of messages in the inbox. Once
this is done, it lets you read any message number you want. When you specify a message, it
says whom the message is from, the subject, date, and then reads out the rest of the
message. If there is an attachment with the message, the software tells you the name of
the attachment. In addition to this, you can also delete or undelete a particular message
with phone keypad selections.

The software also has a report generation tool for
generating reports for billing, traffic analysis, and the call data.

It could do with improvements in "online" help to
calling users, and in configuration options for administrators, where it’s somewhat
limited.

Call-Mail adds a convenient method for business travelers
to quickly access their mail. Or for users who move about in a large office—say
salesmen—without having a PC dedicated for them. Overall, an innovative and useful
system.

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