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Video e-mail to be sent to troops

Just in time for the holidays, Americans next week will be able to record and send video messages via the Internet to U.S. troops serving in and around Afghanistan.

Family and friends of U.S. troops serving in and around Afghanistan will be able to share video e-mail messages in time for the holidays.

With technology and equipment provided by Compaq Computer, Sorenson Media and Digital Island, the Department of Defense next week will begin allowing Americans to record and send video messages via the Internet to U.S. troops, under its "Give Thanks America" campaign.

When a family member records a message, the recipient will be able to watch the video through the campaign's site, which is set to launch Friday. Video messages may also be sent through e-mail.

The initiative marks the latest use of video e-mail, which has had its share of false starts. But some analysts predict this campaign will help the technology take off.

Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based research firm, said the military began offering e-mail communications between enlisted soldiers and their families about 10 years ago. He said the technology has progressed since then, when soldiers had to line up for hours to access messages at a handful of PCs.

"Video going to be used to reach, very likely, high thousands to tens of thousands of people who are in support roles outside of Afghanistan," Doherty said. "That is a breakthrough and should help make a lot of people feel better this season. It'll probably expose people to a technology they (may) like to use even when their loved ones are stateside or several states away."

Compaq said it will set up a host of Compaq Presario 5000T desktops combined with a video editing service, called My Movie Studio, and Logitech Quickcam Pro 3000 cameras so that families of soldiers stationed in and around Afghanistan will be able to record three-minute messages at no charge. The general public will be limited to free 30-second messages.

Sorenson will provide the Webcasting service, while Digital Island will manage the video content and speed of the delivery of the messages.

The campaign will kick off Dec. 4 in New York and Washington, D.C., and later launch in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dallas; Houston; Salt Lake City; San Diego; San Jose, Calif.; and other cities. Other Web sites where people can send messages of support to U.S. troops include and

"It's great getting letters and pictures, but to actually go to a PC and see a picture of your wife and kids standing there waving at you is really helpful when you're overseas, especially when you might be on a ship or sitting in a tent somewhere," said David Albritton, a spokesman for Compaq. "It makes a difference."