CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide
Internet

Sorting out work, personal email

A major step is taken to deal with one of the Internet's biggest communications headaches: integrating personal and work email.

The Internet has made life easier for millions of people, but it has also caused some major headaches.

One of them is figuring out a way to integrate the email you get at work with your personal email. Otherwise, you spend too much time sorting through at least two accounts, or maybe more.

Wall Data today took a major step in integrating personal email with business email under a single interface with a new product called Rumba Mail Featuring 3M's Post-it Software Notes.

The first customer to support Rumba will be America Online, the nation's largest online service. By the end of the year, subscribers who log on to Rumba will be able to retrieve their AOL mail and their work email at the same time.

Here's how it works: You follow an online instruction manual to set up the software and, with the click of an icon, can combine your work and personal email and sort it in separate mailboxes. The product supports Microsoft Exchange and Mail, Lotus cc:Mail and Notes, and IBM's Office Vision/400, among others.

Qualcomm's popular Eudora email is being tested for support as well.

The Post-it Notes software allows users to create, attach, send, and receive messages by using the familiar sticky-note metaphor. A user simply clicks on the Post-it icon to add a note into an existing email. The software then formats the message to match the recipient's email application.

Together, the announcements take a big step toward integrating home and work email for AOL's huge customer base. "With this product, Wall Data has moved email from an application to an integrated part of the desktop information environment at home or at work," said David Gang, vice president of product marketing at AOL.

Still, the problem of integrating email will mount if companies don't act quickly. More than 96 million people rely on email for day to day correspondence with relatives, colleagues, friends, and strangers alike. Most users have two accounts: one at work and one at home.

International Data Corporation predicts that by the year 2000, there will be 250 million email boxes worldwide.

Aside from resolving the technical problems of integrating email, there still are privacy and productivity issues to worry about, according to Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group.

For example, workers could spend too much time at the office reading their personal mail. They also may worry whether their boss could get access to their personal mail if it is integrated.

"Some employees' mailboxes already have hundreds of business emails floating around, and personal email would just add to that mess," Enderle said. "In addition, there may be things you don't want your company to run into or know about."