Personalized Wireless Portals Readied

SAN MATEO (07/07/2000) - Combining unified messaging with wireless access to corporate systems and applications, Cisco Systems Inc., and NHancement Technologies Inc. are creating a "personalized communications hub, or PCH, a portal that will connect users with the information they need via audio or data devices.

Through this personalized portal, users can use cell phones, laptops, or other devices and speech-recognition capabilities being built upon base technology from Nuance Technology to link into e-mail and voicemail. Enterprise users can use the portal to access legacy data stores and business applications such as telephony engines, sales/service recommendation engines, and data retrieval/delivery engines.

"The power of the personal portal is basically the unification of both communications and information: It works for you while you're not online or in the office,; it allows portability across any device; and it supports audio access to both voice and data," said Doug Zorn, president and CEO of Pleasanton, California-based NHancement Technologies. "What we are not doing is creating software that is going to replace existing technologies. We are going to be more or less doing the glue that puts them all together and makes them work in a seamless fashion."

One example offered by Zorn involved an employee en route to the airport for a business trip. Their cell phone would ring, and it would be their personal portal calling to let them know it had been monitoring flight schedules and the flight was now delayed four hours. Using their cell phone, the employee could reschedule a flight from a list of options provided by the portal as well as instruct the portal to alert the hosts of a dinner meeting that the meeting would need to be cancelled due to the flight delay. The portal would also update the employee's calendar to reflect the changed plans.

The service provider market will be the top focus for NHancement, with enterprises a close second, Zorn said. He added that the company will partner with ISPs and wireless carriers to offer its product suite to their end users.

"It increases the stickiness; it keeps a customer on longer and provides them the capability of doing all of their communications through the wireless portal or through the ISP," Zorn said.

NHancement's PCH is built on a foundation of Cisco's Unified Open Network Exchange (uOne) platform, which will add the unified messaging piece to the PCH. Cisco will also "introduce customers" to NHancement by recommending PCH to interested Cisco customers, said Larry Lang, vice president at San Jose, California-based Cisco's Service Provider Market.

"This growth of the Internet as now something you can access not just from a wired station but as you move around is going to further fuel what feels to many users like message chaos," said Lang. "While some of those messages are urgent, it's clearly becoming more of a chore to sort through various message locations where users might receive over 200 e-mails in a given week. What's more, running this is quite a burden, so we expect a substantial portion, 30 or 40 [percent], maybe even half of all enterprises will end up outsourcing all or part of their e-mail, and more generally their messaging system, and that creates a tremendous opportunity for companies like NHancement."

Segments of the Nhancement PCH product will be rolled out between August 2000 and March 2001, with all pieces ready by 2001. Zorn added that the first sales would likely begin in the fourth quarter of 2000.

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