fast forward; New lines

A phone you can send e-mails and faxes on? Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac ring in the changes
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British Telecom, once the purveyor of Trim phones and Buzby, has now got all techie. It wants you to get added value from your phone, and is offering a model that is also a mobile organiser, the Easicom 100. It is also looking further afield into ways to wire up your home - how about a service that shows you who's at the door? In the meantime it has also launched the Easicom 1000 ,which is a phone that sends and receives e-mail.

The Easicom is designed to make e-mail use an everyday activity and is specifically aimed at those who may not be PC-literate (research shows that while 57 per cent of people want e-mail, 63 per cent are not interested in buying a PC). The Easicom 1000 comes with five free e-mail addresses, so you can have one for each member of the family or split between business and domestic use. Unlike a PC, there is no need for complicated registration or logging on. Operation is straightforward, a matter of composing a message on the slide-out keyboard, and entering the e-mail address. It can also be used with some existing e-mail accounts (they must be POP3-compatible), making it ideal for checking work messages from home. There is no monthly subscription charge, but a pay- as-you-go system charging 25p for every minute you are on-line, though as you can read mail off-line you only pay for the time it takes to send and retrieve messages. One restriction is that the 1000 lacks any graphics capability and cannot receive e-mail attachments.

The Easicom sends (but won't receive) faxes and boasts a host of features. It has a 150-number directory, calendar, calculator, notepad, currency and unit (ie weights and measures) conversion, international dialling codes, and it can provide access to weather and other information services. Moreover, enhanced services can be downloaded to the unit on a regular basis.

BT is pitching on-line shopping at the touch of a button (or two) as one of the selling points. Currently services are restricted to a book and CD shop, which allow you to read reviews or listen to selections before purchasing. Services are expected to expand to include other retailers, banking and insurance. Shopping over the Internet, or e-commerce as it's known, has never quite taken off in the UK, although it is still considered to have huge potential.

Whether e-mailing becomes second nature, like using the phone, remains to be seen, but electronic mail definitely has the capacity for expansion with applications beyond work and Internet enthusiasts. Access is increasingly being added to a range of products including mobile phones and watches. Sagem has launched the PhoneFax 390i (pounds 349, available by mail order from Innovations on 0870 908 7070): a phone and fax machine that manages and prints e-mail. JVC's PocketMail device (only available in the US) is the size of a calculator and sends e-mail by holding it up to a phone handset, allowing pay phones to be used. Back home, digital TV promises to bring Internet and e-mail services to our living rooms in the near future, which could be the thing that finally gets your mum connected