AT&T Inks Web Content Deal with Tellme

SAN MATEO (05/22/2000) - AT&T on Monday announced an alliance with start-up venture Tellme Networks aimed at passing content and other Internet applications over the phone.

The idea is to provide users with a toll-free number they can use to get to voice commands that let them access Web content or even conduct commerce normally transacted over the Internet.

Tellme's application may have merit, especially given the fact that there is not yet a pervasive means to remotely access the Internet, according to Melanie Posey, an analyst for IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

More importantly, Posey said, the announcement signifies the growing interest among telecommunications companies in putting resources behind fledgling start-ups.

"There is an interest now among telecom service providers and manufacturers in leveraging their network capital in ideas that enable other types of access," she said.

"But the upshot of all of this may be that companies like AT&T and others are investing in companies they hope will one day be big customers for them," Posey added.

Indeed, Tellme's fresh deal with AT&T calls for AT&T to infuse the Tellme platform with networking services, toll-free services, and call-routing capabilities.

But the companies say they will jointly develop applications for businesses as well as consumers, who they expect will use the voice commands to access information on dining and other entertainment services.

AT&T Corp., in Basking Ridge, N.J., is at www.att.com. Tellme Networks Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., is at www.tellme.com.

Jennifer Jones is an InfoWorld senior editor.

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