Science Update: France joins up

FRANCE TELECOM is the latest company to throw in its lot with General Magic, the multinational alliance created in 1990 to marry the technologies of computer software with those of telecommunications. With revenues of dollars 24bn, France Telecom already operates the world's largest videotext market, much of it through the pioneering Minitel system.

France Telecom's users will be able to employ General Magic's 'intelligent agent' technology - software that will ferret through a computer network by itself to retrieve information with minimal input from the user.

The founders of General Magic were Apple, AT&T, Matsushita, Motorola, Philips and Sony. They have been joined by NTT, Fujitsu and Toshiba.