Pick up the phone, talk to a computer

FOR the busy executive, strapped for time and traveling light, the latest innovation in telecommunications could save valuable minutes and luggage space.

Without needing a computer, executives can now access information from their office computer back home simply by dialing a standard touch-tone phone.

Called an Office Telephone Access Server, the system developed by WordPerfect Corporation in Orem, Utah, enables users to send and receive E-mail, respond to appointment requests, update personal schedules, assign tasks, and search for messages on a particular subject or from an individual - all by phone.

Flexibility is one key benefit, says Mark Calkins, vice president of product marketing for WordPerfect. By tapping in a phone number, log-in ID, and password, a user can find out what messages people have left in the office without relying on a secretary or bothering to set up his lap-top computer and dial in. Nor are there time or place restrictions, Mr. Calkins says.

The software is essentially a sophisticated version of voicemail. The computer ``talks'' to the caller with a simulated voice, reading text messages from the caller's computer message file on request and giving prompts for each step. Then by punching a few keys on the phone pad, the caller can delete the message, forward it to colleagues, or send a voicemail in response.

A system where the computer recognizes the caller's voice and transcribes the message is still down the road, Calkins says.

One limitation of the present technology is that messages must be brief - not more than three minutes - because of the storage space required. Calkins says WordPerfect is working on compressing information to allow users longer messages.

The new software is an add-on product to WordPerfect Office, a product that links up a network of users to share information. With the addition of WordPerfect's Office Fax/Print Gateway software, a user can even fax a copy of his schedule to himself.

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