Dump "smileys" and get your message across with vmail

If you think text isn't all it's cracked up to be, there's now an Internet voicemail system that promises to be easy to use.

Voice messages over the Internet have been promised for a long time. TaoTalk, from British voice technology specialist AshPool Telecom, is a free "v-mail" service for the UK that allows users to send and receive voice messages over the Net.

TaoTalk promises to eliminate the problems of missed expression and nuance in text-based email, which has to be overcome with emoticons, those annoying little smileys that pervade the web :-).

"The impact of email has been truly revolutionary but most people still find it easier to express themselves by speaking, rather than writing," said Ian Lindsey, executive chairman at Ashpool Telecom. The Sussex company says no recording software is needed, just a freely downloadable software plug-in, available from www.taotalk.com.

Although there are similar services available out there, Ashpool claims that these are often laborious to use, due to delays on reception caused by clumsy download times. Ashdown believes it has overcome this obstacle to widespread adoption by using streaming GSM compression.

The service is aimed at both consumers and business users in the UK, and Ashpool thinks it will be able to attract 500,000 users in TaoTalk's first year on-line. "Five years ago, few people would have predicted the level of email communications today," said Lindsey.

At this stage, TaoTalk only works with Windows 95/98 and NT compatible PCs, with sound cards and speakers. A Mac version should be available later this year.

TaoTalk is based upon Ashpool's core CodaCall technology.

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