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Getting a handle on the boom in E-mail use.

By the year 2000, 40 million people in the United States will be active users of electronic mail, projects Walter Ulrich, director of Arthur D. Little's Pacific Southwest Region.

These users will send as many as 60 billion messages per year. Corporate users have accepted E-mail--aling with voice mail and fax--as a practical way to communicate with each other quickly without the recipient's having to be present at the moment of transmission.

GTE states that it has 27,000 E-mail users. Texas Instruments reports 37,000 users and electronic addresses for all 72,000 employees. DuPont says it has 92,000 users.

Whereas some companies have highly organized E-mail, in most companies it is loosely structured and poorly connected, Ulrich says.

One clear and universal result to the knotty problems is most companies' focus on solving problems with their internal E-mail. Only after achieving a reasonable degree of in-house integration will firms begin to seriously address the issue of intercompany E-mail.

Even if an individual company has developed a satisfactory underlying infrastructure and physical connections to third parties, message traffic can still be inhibited by nonconforming "envelopes."

Incompatible envelope specifications prevent transfers from one message system to another. A conforming envelope enables E-mail sent to external systems to be read by all conforming carriers.

Conformance is more difficult to achieve when E-mail is used for EDI (electronic data interchange), or when EDI systems are used for E-mail.

While a number of vendors, such as IBM and Digital Equipment offer well-developed propietary solutions, Ulrich says CCITT's X.400, which specifies the characteristics of an open-standard E-mail envelope, represents the long-term solution for both intercompany messaging and EDI.

As E-mail systems grow, senior executives discover that E-mail technology investment costs soar and the payback is difficult to quantify or even discern. Ulrich says that situation can lead to the termination of an E-mail program. McDonnell Douglas recently shut down its Professional Office Systems (known as Profs, an early-generation IBM host-based office automation system) E-mail operations in Southern California in order to reduce costs, he says.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:343
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