Winbox Aims to Converge E-Mail and Mobiles

LONDON (03/22/2000) - Belgian startup SA/NV has extended its subscription-free e-mail-to-mobile phone notification service to the U.K., the company announced yesterday. notifies users when e-mail is received at an address consisting of the user's GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications) mobile phone number, including the country code, followed by "" The notification is sent as an SMS (short message service) text message, and includes the subject line of the e-mail and the password which the user needs in order to retrieve the full text of the message from the Website.

"We tried to make it easy," Winbox's Chief Executive Officer Roald Sieberath said. "On the Internet, you can find anything but a person's e-mail address."

Using a mobile number as an e-mail address is not an original idea; mobile carriers and some third-party service providers in the U.K. already offer the service, with some allowing the users to receive the full text of the e-mail and to write a reply on the keypad of their mobile phone. However, users must register to use those services, and the domain name in the address depends on the mobile carrier. With, every mobile number can have an account under the same domain name, according to Sieberath.

Winbox can also store faxes and voice mails, Sieberath said, and even read out e-mails over the phone using a text-to-speech system. Users can record their response and have it sent automatically as a .wav file attached to an e-mail reply.

Most of these services are free (except for call charges, in the case of the text-to-speech service), Sieberath said. The first 25 alert messages each month are free, but after that, the price varies from country to country. In the U.K., the rate is between six pence and eight pence (9 and 13 US cents) per message, Sieberath said. He expects to make money from targeted advertising (which he euphemistically calls "permission marketing") and e-commerce services.

Spam filtering is among the premium services the company plans to charge for, but the company downplays the possibility of spammers hitting the service now.

Winbox works with spam-blocking company Critical Path and other contractors to prevent the problem from occurring, Sieberath said.

"Critical Path watches for things such as similar e-mail patterns and names of notorious spammers," he said.

The company plans to launch in Germany next month, then Spain and Italy by the end of May, and most of the other western European countries by the end of the summer. Winbox also has its sights set on the U.S. market, although the general concept of text messaging still hasn't entered widespread use in the U.S.

"Until recently, nobody seemed to know very much about SMS at all, but I think that's finally changing," Sieberath said., in Lovain-la-Neuve, Belgium, can be reached at +32-10-45-60-00 or on the Web at

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