Excite Home launches two new services today, Excite Voicemail and Excite Voice Chat, adding to the narrow and broadband media company's suite of personal productivity tools and continuing its much-hyped "All Band, All Device, All the Time" initiative to spread Excite Home's offerings across any and all media.
"The Web to date has only been about content," said Craig Donato, Excite Home senior vice president, communities, search and network programming. "There's an increasing emphasis on using the Net for communication, and we're trying to enhance synchronous and asynchronous messaging."
Excite Voicemail is free to users for up to 60 messages and 10 faxes per month. Each user receives a unique 10-digit extension number from a central 800 number provided by Excite, on which callers can leave voice messages or send a fax. Recipients go to an Excite Web page to read faxes or hear the audio messages.
To use Excite Voice Chat, consumers need a PC, an Internet connection, microphone, and speakers or a headset to have live voice conversations with other Excite chatters. Users can also create their own private "conference calls" of up to 10 people.
Excite Voicemail features magicTalk technology from General Magic, Sunnyvale, Calif., while Excite Voice Chat service is provided by Lipstream, Cupertino, Calif.
Excite Home, Redwood City, Calif., will do a "controlled rollout," Donato said, to make sure there are no glitches. Initially, the Voicemail and Voice Chat services will be featured only within the e-mail and chat areas of Excite, respectively.
Both services are ad-supported. Those who leave messages must listen to a short audio ad first. Ads also appear on the main pages for message receipt and chat setup. The company plans to add premium, paid-for services later.
Donato would not divulge how much Excite Home expects to spend on 800-number charges, but he did say Excite Home had used data from phone companies to extrapolate the number and lengths of messages it could expect. "We're quite confident that, at the end of the day, with some of our high-end users upgrading to paid-for service and advertising, we can at least break even," Donato said. "For Excite, this is about a first-mover strategic advantage."