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AOL, Net2Phone Invest in Webley

America Online Inc. and Net2Phone Inc. Wednesday invested $15 million in unified messaging provider Webley Systems Inc.

The cash infusion is the result of Webley's second round financing initiative. Net2Phone (NTOP) last month sold a 32 percent share of its company to a consortium of corporate investors led by AT&T Corp. (T).

By acquiring a minority interest in Webley, Net2Phone will be able to license Webley's advanced technology to offer an interesting menu of convergent messaging and communications services. The menu includes "find me; follow me," call forwarding, Web- and phone-based e-mail, voice-mail and fax integration, and Internet access from cell phones or other wireless devices.

David Greenblatt, Net2Phone chief operating officer, said Webley's sophisticated unified communications services fits in well with Net2Phone's enhanced IP network service offerings.

"With Webley technology, users have a virtual Personal Assistant that can take a message, forward calls, read faxes over the phone, translate and dictate emails to text, and much more, either from a PC, standard telephone, or wireless device," Greenblatt said. "Net2Phone is excited to be able to employ this advanced technology for the benefit of its many customers."

By combining the two companies, Webley and Net2Phone intend to leverage a number of developments that are affecting the telecommunications, computing and Internet industries. Through the agreement Net2Phone also becomes the network of choice for voice-enabling new technologies like Webley's unified messaging.

Patricia Mathis, Webley chief executive officer, said the investments by America Online (AOL) and Net2Phone will help facilitate growth plans.

"These agreements are part of Webley's second round of investment financing, and give the company a solid base for expansion of its services to a much greater number of users," Mathis said.

Ron Peele, AOL Investments vice president, said AOL would like to tap into unified messaging technology.

"We believe unified messaging is an area of vast future growth as intelligent communications become more prevalent," Peele said. "Webley offers an innovative and flexible solution with a focus on customer support, which we believe is the right approach."

Webley Systems is a leader in unified messaging due to its natural speech recognition driven personal assistant, aptly dubbed Webley. Webley is a fully featured personal assistant integrating customers' messages over the phone and the Internet. Through a personal web page, customers can upload their contact lists automatically and retrieve messages.