Phone boxes to be wired for e-mail
By Jack Schofield Computer editor
Thursday October 1, 1998
British Telecom has announced plans to introduce multi-media pay-phones that will enable people to send and receive electronic mail without a computer.
The first thousand multi-media pay-phones will be installed within the M25 area in December, according to John Swingewood, BT's director of Internet and multi-media services.
The company has so far produced only three prototypes, which it is testing to see if they can withstand attacks by vandals.
Mr Swingewood said BT needed to start the service with a "robust device", so the first systems will not have pull-out keyboards, instead displaying a picture of a keyboard on a liquid crystal screen. Users will be able to type letters by touching them.
The multimedia pay-phones are part of BT's strategy to create a wired society, with the company giving away mail-boxes under its Talk 21 e-mail scheme because many subscribers do not have an e-mail address.
Similarly, because not everyone has an Internet account, BT is offering a pay-as-you-go Internet service called BT Click+. The two new services were announced yesterday, and BT Click+ was scheduled to come into service on 0870 090 1234 at midnight last night.
Many companies, including Microsoft, provide free e-mail services but BT said its research showed many users would switch to a British offering. Mr Swingewood expected that there would be four million Talk 21 users by 2000.
BT Click+ will allow people to access the Net without paying a monthly subscription. The cost will be met by adding a penny a minute to the local call charge when users dial in to the service, and collecting the money via their phone bills.
The "pay and surf" idea looks less tempting than the free Internet access announced by Dixons last week, but Mr Swingewood thought BT could compete by offering extra features.
"I don't think it's a price issue," Mr Swingewood said. "It's much more to do with value for money. What we're saying is that with the ease of use, the quality content, and the e-mail, BT Click+ forms a very compelling Internet starter package, and all of our research says that's what new consumers want."
Thanks for the newsbit Mark!
Mark Dolley with z a p w o r k s !
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