Tech Industry

Users to surf the Web over the phone

Companies with Web servers will soon be able to give rides on the information superhighway to customers without modems or even computers. NetPhonic Communications today rolled out its Web-On-Call Voice Browser.

Companies with Web servers will soon be able to give rides on the information superhighway to customers without modems or even computers.

NetPhonic Communications today rolled out its Web-On-Call Voice Browser, software designed to let users access information on the Web with a phone or fax machine instead of a computer and a modem. The idea is to let companies that have already invested in establishing a Web presence leverage that investment to attract a larger base of customers.

"This technology is for the 98 percent of the population who don't have access to a browser and for people who surf the Web but can't get to it when they are traveling or away from the office," said Ken Rhie, president of NetPhonic Communications. "People constantly see the slogan, "For more information go to http://www.cbs.com/," [for example]. Most people don't know what that means. But if a phone number is included [in the same ad], people will call," he said.

Web-On-Call runs on the same Web servers that maintain the Web sites. Instead of accessing the site via a computer and browser pointed to a URL, customers can use a Touch-Tone phone or a fax machine to call into the server. The software then uses text-to-speech technology and an audio recording feature called Teleprompting that reads back requested Web documents over the phone with a "high degree" of accuracy or sends back documents over a fax line or to an email address, the company said.

The browser supports both external and internal Web sites, and user ID and password protection are included for sites that require security. Callers cannot use Web-On-Call to break into sensitive or critical files on the Web server, according to NetPhonic officials.

The Web-On-Call Voice Browser is set to ship in mid-1996 for $1,000 per copy.