SAN FRANCISCO (03/21/2000) - You're not easy to track down, with your three e-mail accounts and five phone numbers. And even your fancy new Web-enabled wireless phone isn't making things any easier.
Onebox.com can help, by consolidating all those ways to contact you. This week, Onebox.com updates its free unified messaging service, which provides a central phone number and single e-mail address for all of your e-mail, voice mail, and faxes. The one-stop message retrieval service previously was available only at a Web site; now Onebox 2.0 lets you get those messages through a phone that supports wireless application protocol.
The updated service also adds a Web calendar, e-mail filtering, spell-checking, and voice recognition features.
When you sign up, Onebox.com gives you a phone number in one of 30 metropolitan areas for voice messages and faxes, and assigns you a central Web messaging account, which is essentially Web-based e-mail, says Vinod Valloppillil, a Onebox.com senior product manager.
Then you can forward your various e-mail accounts and voice-mail boxes to your Onebox.com account and retrieve all messages from one place. Or people can leave voice-mail messages, send a fax, or send e-mail directly to your Onebox.com address.
For now, you can retrieve faxes from your Onebox.com account only from a PC, not yet from a WAP phone, Valloppillil says. You can read a fax file as a .gif or .tif file, or through a Java applet, he says. Over your mobile phone, you can only find out that you have a fax.
You can read your Onebox.com e-mail through your WAP phone's microbrowser. Or you can have it read to you using any phone, through Onebox.com's text-to-speech function, which launches March 24.
You can call in, hear your e-mail messages, and answer them by voice. You can navigate through your address book and check for faxes.
"You can page through items in your address book or calendar," Valloppillil says.
A unique Onebox.com feature is its "reply with voice mail" option, which lets you answer an e-mail message verbally from a WAP phone.
"When you hit reply, you can put the phone up to your ear and talk; hit send and it sends a voice-mail message to [that person's] e-mail account," Valloppillil says.
Your reply appears in their e-mail box as a link that launches Windows Media Player and audio-streams your answer.
When you retrieve voice-mail messages on Onebox.com through your PC, you retrieve them like an e-mail message. Onebox.com stores the voice mail as a Quicktime or .wav file, or streams it.
Hear It All
You can sign up for the free service directly, but Onebox.com also is negotiating with mobile phone communications carriers to offer Onebox functions along with other wireless services. No deals are yet announced. Some carriers may offer only some functions, Valloppillil adds.
If you're reluctant to get yet another phone number, some carriers will integrate the service.
"In those cases, the [Onebox.com] number would be your cell number," says Leslie Nakajima, director of corporate communications for Onebox.com.