Voice-enabled e-mail (sometimes referred to as voice-activated e-mail) uses voice recognition and speech synthesis technologies to enable users to access their e-mail from any telephone. In general, the various products available work similarly: The subscriber dials a phone number to access a voice portal, then, to collect their e-mail messages, they press a couple of keys and, perhaps, say a phrase like "Get my e-mail." Speech synthesis software converts e-mail text to a voice message, which is played back over the phone. The user may navigate through options (such as skipping messages, or hearing a list of senders, for example) through voice commands or key selections. Users dictate their replies, which are delivered to the recipients as voice messages.
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Voice-enabled e-mail is especially useful for mobile workers, because it makes it possible for them to access their messages easily from virtually anywhere (as long as they can get to a phone), without having to invest in expensive equipment such as laptop computers or personal digital assistants (PDAs). Proponents hope that new services like voice-enabled e-mail and unified messaging will turn out to be the killer apps that will dissolve the perceived barriers between data networks and traditional voice networks.