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Telstra has a new service called easymail, and it could be a healthy boost for home PC usage and perhaps even sales. Easymail (note the clever way I managed to spell it with a capital letter by using it to start a sentence) is claimed to be a cheap, easy-to-use e-mail service for people who either don't need Internet access, or who want to keep costs to a minimum.

It's effectively a free e-mail service. For just the 25c call cost, from most fixed phones in Australia (higher from mobiles) you can send up to 10 e-mails, and each one can be to multiple addressees. At the same time easymail will download any incoming e-mails to your PC. Users are assigned a new e-mail address of the form and Telstra sends them a free startup kit on CD. The minimum system is a 486 running Win 95 with a 9.6Kbps modem or faster.

What's the catch? To enrol you have to fill in a demographic profile, then Telstra sells targeted ads which appear above your easymail screen on the PC. The only other downside is that outgoing e-mails are limited to 25KB in size and can't contain attachments. Incoming e-mails can be up to 250KB including attachments. There's also the possibility that this is Telstra's way of getting more dollars back from online users - after all, they'll probably get more 25c call charges this way than people calling ISPs. It may also turn out to be a sneaky way of upgrading users to BigPond.

Being one to always look a gift-horse in the mouth, I've suggested to Telstra that the following services would make good additions.

1) Since many easymail users will also use other e-mail programs such as Outlook Express, I'd like to see both systems show mail that's on the other. That is, when you go to send an easymail e-mail, it'd be nice to see a list of the e-mails you've already sent the recipient via BigPond or OzEmail or whatever.

2) While sending e-mails is cost effective, logging on once a day just to see if someone has sent you an e-mail would cost almost $100 a year. I'd like an option to have a robot ring you with a voice message to tell you that you have e-mail. I'd also like the option of having all incoming easymail forwarded to another e-mail account.

3) Part of the service is being able to have Telstra keep your e-mail address in a database so people can call the easymail Finder service and for 75c be told what your e-mail address is. With your permission they'll also list the details on the Telstra WWW service. I'd like them to keep other data on this database (with your permission) such as other e-mail addresses, fax number, and so on. After all, every call someone makes is more profit for Telstra.

Perhaps you SOHO resellers could offer a service to install the software and get users onto easymail. I know people who would pay $100 to have it done. For more details, ring 1800 429 444.

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