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Ever need to phone 7,000 people at once?

Service lets PC users type message that's transformed into a phone call to a few people, or a few thousand.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--If you ever need to get in touch with several--or several thousand--people at once, Send Word Now has the software for you.

The New York City-based start-up is promoting a communication application at PC Forum that lets a user type a message on a PC that then transforms into a phone call to a few people, or a few thousand. (PC Forum is owned by CNET Networks, owner of News.com.)

Though the urgent message currently needs to be typed into a PC (or broadcast from a company's server farm), on April 7, Send Word Now will announce that customers can broadcast messages with a Palm handheld.

The service is mostly for those moments when other forms of communication may not work, said CEO Sanford Cohen. One customer, for instance, recently used it to ping board members who were on their way to the airport. They were headed for a meeting in Florida--but so was a hurricane. They canceled their flight.

Another company, a large media conglomerate, uses it to call its editors in the morning to discuss errors in the previous day's coverage. The Bank of New York used it during the blackout of 2003.

Customers "buy it for an emergency, but we are starting to see them use it more frequently," Cohen said.

Send Word Now theorizes that the convergence revolution--in which all computers are communication devices and vice versa--is far from complete, he said. People generally use PCs for e-mail and instant messages and they use phones as phones. Hence, an e-mail message, even if marked urgent, may not get read until it's too late.

Broadcasters and recipients have a variety of options. A broadcaster can request an immediate confirmation of receipt, while a recipient can request that the message arrive in its original text form, or as a voice message.

Mostly, customers only use it to contact a few people, but it can push out 7,000 to 8,000 messages. "You can do as many as you want, but it takes more time," Cohen said.

The service costs about $4,200 a year for 50 contacts. Send Word Now has approximately 100 customers.