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Tornado tries one-stop messaging

Another company is addressing users' needs in cutting through the blizzard of email, pages, voice mail, and faxes with one message box.

Another company is addressing users' needs in cutting through the blizzard of email, pages, voice mail, and faxes with one message box.

Tornado Software Development plans to launch a $10-a-month service on July 4 called Tornado Electronic Messaging System (TEMS) that will give users such a message box, making it accessible from any telephone or computer that is outfitted with a Web browser. The service, which went into limited testing this week, will be officially announced on June 9.

The number of integrated messaging services have been growing almost as quickly as the number of communications devices strapped to the hips and shoulder bags of users. Although they've been touted as a cure for user communications woes by simplifying the process of managing messages, these services haven't yet found a huge market, according to Mark Levitt, research manager for electronic messaging at market research firm International Data Corporation.

TEMS will have to vie with similar universal mailbox offerings from JFax and Premiere Technologies, but more importantly, it will need to dislodge users from the email, fax, and voice mail systems already in place.

"There are two big challenges. [First is] enabling customers to achieve integration without having to replace existing email, fax, and voice mail systems," Levitt said. "The integration needs to be good enough to convince people to switch. The other [challenge] is do customers require that integration? It's a nice thing to have, but it's not a requirement."

Kevin Torf, president of Tornado, said TEMS is more sophisticated than other Web-based messaging services because it uses a Java applet that gives users many features, such as filtering, which they are familiar with from standard email packages. By allowing users to send and receive pages, faxes, email, and voice mail through a Web browser, users can communicate from any PC with a browser.

TEMS also allows users to dial into their own personal phone number to retrieve voice mail the old fashioned way. Users can also receive voice-synthesized versions of their email over the phone, a service also offered by CompuServe..

In addition to a $10 monthly fee, TEMS users must pay a $15 one-time setup charge. Tornado charges an additional $10 for a personal phone number. Beginning in 1998, Tornado will also offer TEMS as a software/hardware package for corporations that want to provide it to their users.

"Every phone company will ultimately offer this type of service," Torf added.