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Updating Voicemail for the IP Generation

Twenty-five years after the first voicemail systems debuted on servers the size of refrigerators, the feature has grown into a sleek, nimble feature of Internet protocol communications.

Communications and Voice over IP software provider Avaya is throwing voicemail a kind of birthday bash with an update of its IP telephony suite.

Called Modular Messaging 2.0, the platform is designed to move voicemail out of its lonely landline silo and become more integrated with centralized applications in the world of IP.

The platform features voice and fax messaging, more IP integration with Avaya's Communication Manager server platform, unified messaging with Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino server systems, and unified access to messages in Microsoft Outlook.

Lawrence Byrd, director of communications applications at Avaya, said the upgraded Modular Messaging platform can now handle millions more messages a day -- voice, e-mail, or other forms.

With the system, for example, a worker can use a cellular phone at an airport to not only retrieve voicemail, but to also have e-mail read, with replies using voice commands.

"I think we've solved some of the early problems with unified messaging," Byrd added. "Now, there's a flexibility to store all messages in the same area."

Mobile employees can access and manage messages, calendars, directories and tasks, as well as make phone calls and set up conferences, from any phone, using spoken, natural language commands, Avaya said.

Byrd said end users will likely focus on their ability to access their voicemail messages from their personal computers as well as their phones with the help of a plug-in that works with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes e-mail clients, for example.

Users can also manage voicemail, e-mail and fax communications from their laptop or desktop PC. The system also allows workers to use Web browsers, such as Netscape or Microsoft Explorer, to surf into Modular Messaging from any Internet-ready PC.

Modular Messaging R2.0 is also integrated with Avaya's Intuity AUDIX Telephone User Interface as well as most third-party legacy voicemail systems.

The bottom line, Byrd added, is that modular messaging has become scalable and redundant in order to help customers consolidate their phone systems and save money.

People used to think that the rise of the Internet would make voice messaging less important next to the use of e-mail, instant messaging and the like, said Byrd.

"My experience is just the reverse. The Internet speeded up everything, making voice communication more important. But it hasn't replaced talking," he said. "With desktop integrations of voice, along with speech integrations, we think this industry's come a long way."