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Jtalk reads your e-mail over the phone

October 19, 1998
Web posted at 4:45 PM EDT

by Melissa Riofrio

(IDG) -- Do you want your e-mail now, but can't get to a computer? No problem -- just find a telephone. On Monday Jfax launches Jtalk, a new service that uses text-to-speech technology to read your e-mail messages to you over the phone. You use phone-button commands to delete or save a message, forward it to another telephone number, or reply by voice mail. Jtalk can't read e-mail attachments, but it can tell you whether there is one. A user ID and password protect your account from prying ears.

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Travelers temporarily deprived of computer access to e-mail will probably be the biggest initial users of Jtalk, according to Jack Rieley, vice chair and cofounder of Jfax. However, there is another seemingly unlikely group.

"Hundreds of thousands of people don't own a computer," Rieley notes, "but they need e-mail. You can use a friend's computer to sign up for an e-mail account, and use Jtalk to listen to your messages."

The service costs $2.50 per month, plus a $15 activation fee; in addition, you're charged 25 cents per minute for e-mail retrieval. Jtalk can access any POP3-compliant e-mail system. Jfax is working with America Online (which is not POP3-compliant) to make the popular online service's e-mail accounts compatible with Jtalk. Pager access will be available shortly

Jfax is only the latest company to introduce a service that lets you access your e-mail via the telephone. QualComm recently rolled out the slightly less expensive Eudora E-mail By Phone. Similar to Jtalk in operation, it has a $9.95 sign-up fee and charges 25 cents per minute of use; however, it does not charge a monthly fee. More sophisticated (and more expensive) services such as General Magic's Portico let you use the phone to access your e-mail, appointments, and address book as well--for a price. Portico has a $50 sign-up fee, and rates start at $19.95 per month for 60 minutes of use.

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